IS Department

Take a Moment to Clean Your Desk Off

Posted in Uncategorized by Brian Russell on March 31, 2008

Over the last several weeks, I have been feeling buried in work.  The work came in faster than I could complete.  It is hard to explain the feeling you get when you have a ton of work on your shoulders, but I am sure most people reading this understand the feeling.

I needed to do something fast in order to get a handle on the stress I was feeling.  I started looking around my office and noticed that I have papers everywhere on my desk.  Each one represented some work to do or something I deemed important at one point in time.  It created this overwhelmed feeling causing me stress.  I didn’t recognize it at first, but the clutter was eating at my subconscious because I knew what it represented.  Furthermore, my virtual desktop had many files scattered all over it creating the same feelings as the real world desk.

I had two choices.  I could continue on and try to get as much work done as possible while still being stressed, or as I like to call it, working in a chaotic fashion.  Or the second choice was to take care of the two things I identified as creating added stress.  I chose the latter.

First up, I sorted the papers into 4 piles on my desk. 

  • 1. Things To Do – Everything that had action attached to it went in this pile.
  • 2. Things To Sort Through – This pile contained everything I wasn’t sure about.
  • 3. Things To Read Or File – I have a lot of sources of information coming in such as magazines, articles I printed out, training books, reports, memos, etc.
  • 4. Trash – You would be surprised at how much stuff makes it on your desk that was deemed important at the time, but now it is stale or no longer important.

Sorting is pretty easy once on establish how you are going to sort.  Of course, you always run into that one paper that seems like it goes in a few piles.  The best thing to do is stick it in the 2nd pile, things to sort through.  This allows you to continue with your process all the way through to completion while knowing you will be coming back to it.

Once I was done, I went through the 2nd pile slowly and moved items to the 1st or 3rd pile.  This is easier than you think.  Once you are done, your 2nd pile is gone.

Next, I went through the 3rd pile.  My first categorization had this pile rather large.  Magazines and articles I had printed long ago were in the mix.  For me, this was too large and I figured I sometimes just need to purge the backlog.  So I did, I went through the pile real quick and moved things over to the 4th pile (trash) that were not crucial to me completing my job effectively.  At this point, my 3rd pile is relatively small and manageable.  I could get through it in a few hours when I get to it.

After that, I pretty much created all my trash, so I recycled my 4th pile.  This is a stress reliever!

You should be left with two stacks now; things to do and things to read and/or file away.  I will leave it to you to figure out the process from here.  Personally, I grouped the action items and placed them in folders so that I wasn’t looking at a stack of papers.  I also am quickly able to reprioritize the folders based on business needs.

Next up, I went to my virtual desktop.  This is pretty simple.  Throw things in folders, archive them, or delete them.  You can pretty much use the same process for the virtual desktop as you did for the physical one.

Hope this helps someone else get a feeling of control of their work environment.


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