Did you know that one of the dirtiest places is your own desk? It's not just the phone and the keyboard that attract germs, though. It's the crumbs from last week's blueberry muffin or the reusable water bottle that just never quite makes it through the dishwasher. Add on the piles of paper clutter and your desk is a war zone of germs and disorganization. • In fact, a recent study showed that a typical desk has 400 times more bacteria per square inch than an office toilet seat. So grab some disinfectant wipes and swipe the surfaces! And don't forget that clutter is as bad for your health as yesterday's coffee cup. Clutter not only makes us feel stressed, but it makes us less efficient. • Set a new plan in motion for tackling clutter before it makes a mountain out of your desk.
Three rules for keeping your desk (and office) clutter-free
1Book it. Set a recurring monthly appointment (the 15th of each month is a great choice) in your Outlook or your calendar and prepare for some heavy lifting. This is the day to roll up your sleeves and get rid of anything that doesn't serve a serious purpose.
2File it. Pick one day a week to file papers that are taking up valuable space on your desk and seriously messing with your office chi. Friday afternoons tend to be slower in most businesses, so use that time wisely to get yourself prepped for the next week. If it doesn't have a file folder or you don't know where it goes, keep it in a "general" folder for a few weeks. Go back to it on your monthly day (see No. 1), and if you haven't used it, toss it.
3Pick your top three. Some days, the assignments pile up and the work seems insurmountable. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and overworked, spend a little time at the beginning of each day to determine your three most important tasks. It seems small, but identifying the most important items on your to-do list ensures that you focus on the right things that need to be tackled at the right time.
Three rules for taming virtual-file chaos
1Do not let e-mail rule your life. Yes, it's really tempting to check e-mail every time you hear that little ping when one drops in your in-box, but resist the urge. Instead of checking every few minutes and losing your concentration on the project or task you were doing, set aside windows of time when you check. For instance, check first thing in the morning, right before lunch and then again later in the afternoon. Do whatever works for your schedule and your particular work style.
2Get a separate e-mail address for junk. It might seem counterintuitive, but give us a minute. Did you ever notice how your e-mail address has everything from notes from your boss to newsletters from the website where you ordered Christmas cards? Get a free e-mail address (Yahoo, AOL, etc.) to use exclusively for online orders and such. Check it once a month instead of having those e-mails clutter your regular in-box. Chances are it's all trash anyway.
3Make time to organize online. It's the same philosophy as with your regular desk, but just because you can't see it right away doesn't mean clutter isn't piling up on your hard drive. Pick a day as your designated "file" day when you delete what you don't need and archive what you do. Not only will it free up space on your computer, it means that you can find that Word document when your colleague asks for it.