Compare the following two photographs. The first is a photograph of my workspace several months ago, the second is what it looks like tonight after some major reorganization.
It took a long time and over one hundred dollars to organize my workspace, but it was well worth the effort. I now have a well-lit, clutter-free desk where I can be productive without being distracted by all the clutter. Here’s how I did it.
First, I started to clear space. Everything that wasn’t needed for the work I was doing went someplace else. Any CDs, tools, books, or anything else that I didn’t need at arm’s length while working was set aside. This let me focus on what items I did need to organize and not on the ones I didn’t.
Next I focused on clearing up space. When I work, I like to have a clear workspace (or desk in this case), which means that everything on my desk needed a place to live when it wasn’t being used. The more desk real estate I could clear up, the more space I would feel like I had available to work with when I was actually working.
The first step for this task was to organize my drawer space. I already had two rolling cabinets, and so I designated one of them (the larger) to store all the items I wanted to keep handy but didn’t use very frequently. This included things like driver and software restore discs, extra ethernet, USB, FireWire, and other computer and telephone cabling, and adapter dongles. Taking the organization one step further, I designated a specific drawer for a specific kind of item. The bottom drawer, for instance, contains power cords, and coaxial cabling—things I don’t need to access very often—while the top drawer contains things like card readers and adapter cables for computer peripherals (such as my digital camera) that I often connect to my computer but don’t keep attached for very long.
After I consolidated space by hiding things in drawers, I started to look at saving space by going vertical. I packed my shelves with as much as they would carry, keeping in mind that the things I used more frequently were the things I should keep closer to my chair. It actually took me quite a while to figure out what items I used most frequently, so for a while I kept moving things around until I found a comfortable home for all the items.
Finally, when I had no reasons to remove items from my immediate workspace, I went to staples and bought all the desk accessories I thought I could use: letter trays, paper step organizers, a pen holder, and a printer stand. I also splurged on a dry-erase whiteboard so I could write temporary notes and messages to myself while I worked. I also bought a good deal of cable ties and used them to bundle all my various cables into manageable groups to make cleaning underneath my desk easier.
After all this, I finally have a workspace that I feel productive in, but I’m not stopping now. I’m trying to make sure that whenever something can be accomplished more efficiently I’ll find and implement a solution for it.