Just because your desk is small, does not mean you can’t make it yours.
I’ve worked in small desks since the beginning of my career. The only “big” desk I ever had was an L-shaped cubicle that, still to this day, I miss it so much because it was so comfy!
I used to get stressed out whenever I would try to find space for all my paperwork and make it look (and feel) comfortable. Believe me, I have tried every small drawer, every file organizer, every push-in wall; you name it. The point is, finding a balance between how would you wish your desk to look and what exactly fits in it, can take a while.
Here are some tips that, in my experience, have worked for me, and it might work for you too:
1.What DO you want on your desk?
Some of us like plants, some of us love pictures, others like to have their immediate working tools at hand, and some don’t have an option but to have it all near by. But, figuring out what do you want to have on your desk can help you a lot. For example, if you want to have a plant, check first if having a real one is allowed; if not, you can always get a fake one at a local store. If the first is yes, try not to get one that takes too much space or grows too long. This site was a big help for me when wanting to choose a plant.
Now, I am not a big fan of having personal pictures on your desk because I am an extremely private gal, but I don’t mind having pictures of places or paintings that I like. For many, pictures are a source of inspiration and motivation. For example, having a picture of me and my sister would give the biggest motivation to my mom. Once I had a colleague that had a picture of a trip she went to, because it helped her with her anxiety.
Another thing that many like to have on their desk is their tools. Some like to have all their pens and pencils near by, while others (like another colleague of mine) would have all their office supplies in one box next to their computer so it would be easier for them to reach them.
Whatever you decide to put on your desk, make sure it’s something you won’t take out for awhile and won’t distract you or interrupt your work flow.
2. Leave space for your actual work
When I started in the hospitality and events industry, I began as a sales coordinator. My job was 50% on the computer and 50% on marketing paperwork. That means that I had to leave space in my desk to have a small production line to fill in sales kits with flyers, and also leave space for my arms and hands to write on the computer keyboard.
I’ve seen many people with small desks that hardly have any space for them to do their work comfortably. Leaving space for your daily tasks is super important because you don’t’ want your desk to look crampy; you want to do your job as fast and breezy as possible, and you don’t want to end your day with a small anxiety attack.
3. Choose your scheduling tools carefully
Some people go with the flow of the day, and that’s ok. But in fast-paced world like ours, at some point in your career you’ll have to use a planning tool to be on top of things. Many of us have a calendar and/or a to-do list integrated into our computers, whether it is on our e-mail or through a project management program. Yet, some of us like the old notebook and/or planner method, and that’s fine too! Whatever you choose as your planning tool, make sure you actually use it. Why do I say this? Because I used to be one of those people that would buy these amazing notebooks and planners, and rarely use them, let alone follow any of the tasks they put in, leaving them stacked on their desk for months.
Likewise, try not to use too many post-it notes. They are great for when you have a physical planner or notebook and you use it for the day’s task, but having them all over your computer for more than a week, can make you feel a bit panicky in wanting to do all your tasks at the same time before due date. Post-it notes are small reminders for the day or a few days. If you have a project or a task that might take you more than that, use reminders on your computer or your phone, and set a due date.
4. Use cleaning and organizing tools
This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many dirty and chaotic desks I’ve seen from professionals. I’ve had bosses that had left food containers and hair combers in their work area, and that’s just downright gross.
They say that creative minds have a “messy” desk or that a tidy mind is a result of a tidy-up desk. I am not going to debate on whether this is true or not, but I will say that some use this as an excuse to not clean their desks. Period.
If you’re going to eat at your desk, have a trash can nearby and make sure to clean it (at least) twice a week. This rule also applies to home offices. You may work comfortably at home and may not receive clients; but what if you have a Zoom meeting and what they see behind you is a pile of water glasses or cart containers? Oh, believe me, it happens.
Clean your desk, at least, once per week. It will save you time and money, because you won’t have to buy a huge amount of cleaning tools to spend 3 hours throwing trash. Have a budget for this as well. Also, if files on your desk is a must, there are plenty of file organizers sold online and on local stores.
Last but not least a rule of thumb: if you haven’t used certain things of your work in 6 months, throw…it…out! Many organizations keep files stored for up to 5 years and they have a storage space and storage system for this. If there are important files or information you need to keep with you, have a storage system that allows you to search for this easily, but keep it contained. If not, give it to the Cookie Monster trash can, he’ll love it. Most importantly, a clean area can decreased anxiety, make you comfortable to work in it, and say a lot about your work ethic.