5 Tips for Keeping your Desktop Clear of Paperwork


Your desk is the way it is because you let it happen. You can’t blame the people who gave you work, it all comes down to housekeeping.  Just because you have papers and books strewn all over your desk, doesn’t tell the lay-person that you work really hard.  It actually tells them that you aren’t very good at prioritising, time management and organisation. We are all guilty of it from time to time, some of us more than others. You know; people have actually said to me that they have an ‘orderly mess’ and that they know exactly where everything is … does it make it any better, any more workable?  Does this type of explanation give me confidence in their work ethic?

Every day at our desks, we look at paperwork, move it from left to right or put it in a pile on the floor because we have no room left on our desk. Then before we know it, we have this huge pile of paper that keeps growing because it is now part of the too hard basket.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what then, is an empty desk a sign of?”  I can hear you thinking now and to me, it isn’t the obvious an “empty mind”. For me, it simply refers to an “organised mind”

You can’t work effectively with a desk full of clutter; it looks unprofessional and can be distracting. You can’t find anything; you take up too much valuable desk space and you are twice as likely to scribble on the wrong piece of paper.

Walking into your office and seeing your desk clean and free of loose papers, files and books will help to put you in a positive frame of mind.  Sitting at a clean and uncluttered desk gives your mind the freedom to concentrate on what you need to do, not what you should have done.

Here are my 5 tips for organising and dealing with the paperwork on your desk.

  1. Every evening before you depart the office clean your desk top. Put files for shredding through the shredder and those little sticket notes that aren’t sticking anymore, get rid of them if you can’t remember why you wrote them in the first place.
  2. I recommend you use two desk top trays to begin with along with a toaster rack.  Use one tray for incoming and the other for outgoing paperwork. Utilise the toaster rack for current projects. If you need more than one toaster rack, you are juggling too many projects so no wonder your desk is covered in paperwork.
  3. If you can get away with it, I recommend filing your documents in the cloud, on a USB, on your computer or a CD.  Anywhere but on your desk. If you are required to keep paper copies of files, file daily.
  4. If you are maintaining soft copies, make sure you back up what ever system you are saving them to on a regular basis.  Follow up with your IT department and find out how often they back up.  Ask them to do this at daily so if you need to recall anything, it is never older than 24 hours.
  5. Don’t only use your diary for scheduling appointments, schedule your filing. Put aside an hour a week or if you can’t do one hour in a block, break it up with two 30 minutes sessions.

Create an index or file register that you can refer to when searching for files not frequently used. There is nothing worse than sitting there scratching your head trying to remember where you put that file in the first place.

 What other suggestions do you have for keeping your desktop clear?

Please leave a comment below.

Image credit: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. says

    Jacqui, great post! The image above is so telling. I’ve worked with several professionals that needed help with bulldozing through mega piles as illustrated. Filing and setting up systems for folks has been a project for me more times than I can count. Tip #5 is great!! I’d do just that, calendar time to clean up, organize, or file as needed. Constant reminders and diligence is needed to keep this a habit, but in time progress was made. #beeffectiveinallyoudo

    • jmjadmin says

      Thanks for your comment Jenelle! So glad that you find this weeks blog post so worthwhile. I couldn’t agree more with you re constant reminders and I love the fact that you schedule your time … #goyou

  2. says

    Love tip number 5! Must admit though, my office is a paperless one, so I’m lucky. Still have to remember where I file electronically thought! Do you have any special tips for that Jacqui? I like to make sure my hard drive and cloud folders have the same titles and try not to use too many systems for filing documents.

    • Jacqui James says

      Hi Shauna,

      I don’t drill into too much detail, I tend to use an ‘umbrella approach’ … hmmm think I feel another blog post coming on :) Stay tuned.

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