This is often the last thing I feel like doing at the end of a long day. But when life gets busy, it’s the one thing that helps me feel more in control.
I used to have a busy job: I was always being given more work to do, and the tide of incoming paper was hard to turn. But one habit I always maintained was to begin and end each day with a clear desk. And before leaving for the day, I would write up a To Do list and leave this single piece of paper on my work surface to greet me next morning. “Messy desk – messy head!” I would proudly tell my colleagues.
I don’t know why it took me so long to realise I needed to do this at home: this is my workplace now. If you’re feeling disorganised at home, setting up a home office nook could help. Keeping your desk clear is a daily habit that takes less and less time if you persist with it.
Here are a few reasons why it’s worth the small investment of time:
- Mental clarity. You can think more clearly without the visual distraction.
- You’re ready to go. When you don’t have to clear a space to start working, you can make better use of pockets of time that come up.
- You can see what your most pressing tasks are. If you leave out a reminder of the most important thing you need to achieve in your day, then you can jump right in and cross it off your list when you have a spare moment. You have a starting point.
- It sends a good message to others when you look like you’re in control. Your tidy desk conveys this message.
Pick your battles. You can’t keep every surface clear in a home with kids, or any home really. So just focus on the areas which matter the most to you (after all, you’re running your home). For me it’s my desk, the living room floor, dining table and kitchen benches.
I’m not suggesting you overhaul your filing system: I’m still coming to terms with that myself. But consider the Pareto 80:20 Principle. A small amount of effort gathering your papers will bring a great reward (cleaning out the linen closet probably won’t).
Want to get organised? Me too! I desperately need to overhaul my filing system. I hope to be able to share the results with you in the coming months. But if you’d like some ideas to get started, I can recommend Paper Flow. It’s a book that will change the way you think about paperwork.
More from this series:
- Part 1: elements of a functional home office
- Part 2: using a Filofax to manage household bills
- Part 3: getting organised for tax time