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I am getting to a point where the tasks I need to do are well organised, and my living space is also pretty organised. However, my workspace tends to get disorganised quite quickly. How can I rectify this?

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closed as too broad by THelper, AsheeshR, Rory Alsop Mar 21 '14 at 10:30

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This is vague. What would you like to do more efficiently? – Jeanne Boyarsky Mar 19 '14 at 0:44
I would like to organise physical objects - possessions - clothes, papers, furniture, electrical devices, positioning of things in the space, how to save space in a small room etc. – Andrew Welch Mar 19 '14 at 11:32
But how does this relate to personal productivity? – Raystafarian Mar 19 '14 at 14:22
I thought this would be obvious. Surely the management of 'tasks' is interrelated with the management of 'stuff'? – Andrew Welch Mar 19 '14 at 14:58
Management of "stuff" may be related to management of tasks, but this question is still to broad to be answered. What specific problem do you want to solve? How do I organize my clothes to take less time getting dressed? How do I organize my electrical devices to maximize their run time and I don't forget to recharge them? (Those should be two different question posts.) Something else? – Dennis S. Mar 19 '14 at 15:58
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Your question is a broad one, but there are some general principles that you can apply, not matter the specifics of your personal situation.

Understand the Purpose of Organisation

First, it might be worth considering what motivates you to get organised? Some people get organised because they've been told it is a "good thing", because they want a sense of control or because they're into the aesthetics of being organised. However, in productivity terms, the goal of organisation is to remove the barriers that prevent you from getting your work done. There are two implications of this:

  • If the apparent disorganisation in your workplace isn't actually hampering your progress, just ignore it. It isn't really disorganisation at all.
  • If the disorganisation is actually slowing you down, then dealing with the disorganisation is as much part of the job as anything else you have to do in order to achieve results.

Prepare Your Work Space

  • When you are starting a piece of work, put the things you need in the most convenient places for the task.
  • Consider using a tool-belt, desk tidy, apron with pockets or similar, so that the tools you need are always handy when you need them.

Review Organisation Regularly

Most work divides into small steps. At the end of each step, take time to get organised. This includes tidying up and putting away anything that you've used in the previous step, and getting everything ready for the next step. The goal should be to make the next step run as smoothly as possible. In any job, preparation and clearing up are as much part of the job as anything else you do.

For example, if you use the pomodoro technique, check your organisation at the end of each pomodoro.

Monitor Your Work Space

  • Whenever you use a thing, put it back where it came from, or find a more suitable place for it.
  • Whenever you take a break, take a moment to check your workspace and put everything back where it should be, ready for when you pick up tools again.

Do One Thing at a Time

The more tasks you do at a time, the more materials, tools, work in progress, paperwork etc. you'll need to keep track of. Limiting yourself to a single task / project will reduce the amount of stuff you need to keep organised.

If you have to do more than one project at a time, take time to organise whenever you task-switch.

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A few more practical tips. The key is to have trusted placeholders for your stuff along each stage of the workflow.

  1. Get an in-basket. An in-basket should occupy a sacred place on your desk. Anything that is not yet fully organized belongs in the in-basket until you decide what it is and what you're going to do with it

  2. Make sure your filing cabinet is within swivel distance of your desk chair. If it is any farther than that you will be tempted to stack stuff instead of filing it so you can find it easier.

  3. Use multiple computer monitors I am assuming that your work involves computers. My own experience tells me that multiple monitors enable me to be more productive. But don't take my word for it. Here are four studies that come to the same conclusion.

  4. Always have ample supplies Keep plenty of file folders, notepads, quality pens and pencils on hand. Don't wait till you run out.

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