By Christine Song

Is Your Desk Dressed for Success?


Your desk, your workspace, your escritoire…it reflects you, what you do, and how you do it. Your desk by definition is where you go to get work done and to be productive, whether it’s at home or in an office. But what if your desk was also a source of inspiration? A setting that enhanced […]

Your desk, your workspace, your escritoire…it reflects you, what you do, and how you do it.

Your desk by definition is where you go to get work done and to be productive, whether it’s at home or in an office.

But what if your desk was also a source of inspiration? A setting that enhanced the development of your ideas and made you more productive.  

When you look at your desk, what do you see? At this moment, does it inspire you to do great things or even want to be in its presence?

Maybe there are piles of paper, too many pens, loose cords and electronics, more than one stapler, a dying plant…

If you don’t like what you see, consider this analogy. Just as you prepare yourself each day based on the weather and where you’re going, your desk should be prepared to make you productive and successful too; your clothes and accessories reflect the type of work you do and your desk is no different.

You should not only take pride in how you look, but in how your desk looks too.

It’s easy to accumulate things over time, but the more things you have, the less efficient you and your space will be. Not only does the “what” matter and how much you have of it, but the placement and the “where” is important too. For example, can you see that inspirational quote you like so much or is it hidden behind a stack of books?

Whether it’s time for a complete makeover or just some sprucing up, we’ve got you covered with our strategies below on how to make your desk space more productive and inspirational. Let’s dive in!

What is the goal of your desk space?

For some, having a basic desk with very little on it or around it helps the creative process and limits distractions. For others, significant items or pictures do the same, but desk surface space may be at a premium.

Considering your space and what you like, what is the goal of your desk? Do you just need space for you, your laptop, planner, and phone or maybe a bit more?

For example, the goal of my desk space is to be “ergonomically comfortable, clean, and simple, with touches of things that remind me of how hard I’ve worked or of good memories.”

Your goal might be to surround yourself with artwork and images that inspire you creatively. Or maybe your goal is to keep the area sparse and distraction free, so that it is just you and the most essential tools you need to accomplish your work.

Having a specific goal in mind for your desk will help you during the transformation process.

Transforming your desk in 3 steps

Once you know what you want your desk to be and to do for you, it’s much easier to drill down into specifics. If you don’t have a lot of time, the same process described below can be broken up into smaller chunks or over a period of time. Where should you begin?

Phase 1: Cleaning up
  1. Start with what’s on the outside of your desk first – everything that is on the surface of your desk and is visible. What should stay, what should go, and what should be stored nearby?
  2. Then, transition to the inside of your desk and go through all of the drawers, cabinets, cubby holes, and floor space.

Starting on the outside, sort everything into piles for:

  • Keep
  • Recycle
  • Donate
  • Toss

Be very deliberate and definitive about what you put into each pile! It can be really hard to let go of things, but keep your desk’s goal in mind and be objective.

When sorting into the four piles, use these parameters to help you decide what to do:

  • Keep items
    • You use everyday or almost everyday.
    • You need to do your job, like reference books or tools like stapler, note pad, planner, etc.
    • That are functional and makes your space more efficient, e.g. a little dish to collect paper clips, a paper tray, drawer dividers, or pen holder.
    • That make you happy, inspire, or motivate you to do what you do, e.g. pictures, plant, thank you card. If you have more than a 3-4 items that fall within this category, only keep the ones you really want for your desk and the rest relocate elsewhere in your office/home. Even meaningful clutter is still clutter.
  • Recycle items
    • You have (or could make) electronic copies of. For example, I only keep certain hard copies like original documents, but everything else I scan, electronically file, and recycle. This really helps reduce physical clutter while keeping me organized.
    • That are old or no longer work, e.g. batteries, electronics, or items that are outdated or expired.
  • Donate items (or put them back in the communal office closet)  
    • That are usable and in good condition.
    • You have extras of that you don’t need to keep at your desk. You don’t need three pads of paper or dozens of pens; put those back in the office closet and only keep what you truly need at your desk.
    • You no longer use. This includes items you can’t remember the last time you used! Use an objective, cyclical milestone appropriate to your line of work to make the determination; if you’re an accountant and you didn’t use something during the most recent tax season, you probably don’t need it anymore.
  • Toss items
    • That are broken and can’t be fixed, or are completely worn out and are not recyclable or reusable.
    • Papers or keepsakes that no longer have value or are relevant to your work.

And even if it’s not your favorite thing to do, take advantage of this opportunity to clean while you’re at it! Wipe everything down, get into those nooks and crannies once and for all, and chase the dust bunnies away.

It will take less time than you think and can make a huge difference on the way your space feels.

Phase 2: Creating an efficient space

Now that you’ve gone through all of your desk belongings and are down to just the items that you need, be mindful about how you put everything back. Don’t put things back in the same place or in a random order! With each item you have consider:

  • What is the most efficient place for ___ to go? Consider the flow of your day, what needs to be within arm’s length, and what should be within your line of sight. For example, if you reach for a certain item regularly, don’t put it out of reach in an awkward place. If you notice you’re consistently late to meetings, put a clock in a more prominent place.
  • Can you pair or group similar items together?
  • Are you utilizing organizational tools to the fullest to make your space function more efficiently? Consider if drawer organizers, multipurpose pen holders, corralling your cords, incorporating a calendar desk pad, or adding beautiful binders would be useful.

Everyone has a different way of organizing their desk, even productivity experts and designers. Finding what works for you may take some trial and error, but it will be easier to do so in a clean and decluttered space. Just the act of getting started will probably give you some good ideas.

Phase 3: Turning your desk space into a source of inspiration

When everything at your desk is put back and in the most efficient space possible, add those personal touches and decorate your desk space. You might have your favorite quotes, prints, photographs of places you’ve been or places you want to go, plants, or other unique items and memorabilia you love and that makes you happy and brings you joy.

All of these things can inspire you to keep your head up when you’re feeling down, spark ideas when you need them, or bring comfort to you. Your desk does not have to be perfectly minimalist in order for it to function for you.

For example, my husband and I made marbled clay dishes and used them as favors at our wedding; of course there were extras! The one on my desk (and my mom’s at her work) reminds me of the fun we had making them and my wedding day.

Once you have your inspirational objects, place them strategically. Limit the number of things on your desk to 3-4 items so as not to clutter the workspace you just worked so hard to clean and organize. Hanging things on your wall is a great way to play with where you look throughout the day and save open desk space; put some things up close and others a little farther away. For example, when you look up from your desk at a slight distance, you’ll see your favorite picture or print.

Here is what my desk looks like after following these three steps:

Keeping it up

After all your hard work to get your desk space into the state you want it to be in, it won’t maintain itself without some effort on your part. Developing good habits to maintain your desk space will save you time in the long run and keep your space a place you want to keep coming back to.

If you have:

  • 5 minutes to spare: Focus on the surface of your desk and make sure you only keep out what you need. That might mean recycling or tossing items that have accumulated from the week (sticky notes, coffee cups, etc) so you can start fresh.
  • Weekly habit: Do what you would do if you had 5 minutes, but also scan and electronically file papers or type up handwritten notes. Clear your in/out box tray and make sure you don’t have anything hiding in your drawers. Wipe your desk and computer down.
  • Monthly: Pick a day to do a bigger sweep of your desk space, getting the inside of your desk in more detail. Check to make sure you aren’t running low on any products and refill only with what you need. Pull items out of corners and wipe down any areas that are getting dusty.

Create a space that inspires you!

We would love to see how you transform your desk space into a daily inspiration! Share before and after pictures of your desk space, what items inspires you, and tips on how you keep your desk space organized with us on Facebook or Instagram!