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11 Tips for an Organized and Productive Workspace

So you’ve started a business. You’ve jumped on the entrepreneurial bandwagon and are ready to share your vision with the world. A modern office and a big idea are all you need to make things happen, right? Not so fast.

Creating an organized and productive workspace to support your dream is a mix of both practical solutions (like good chairs and good desks) and mental ones (like planning a vision for your workspace). If you want to launch your entrepreneurial idea into space, try these 11 time tested office organization tips. And if your idea shoots off into the stratosphere, drop me a line – and let me know how it goes!

Define Your Vision

Whether you’ve founded our own business or are working for an entrepreneur, what drives a good idea is vision. I’ve coached many business owners and entrepreneurs over the years who are passionate about what they do, but feel stymied at work. When I ask them what’s not working, they share the same issues I see at home: clutter, distractions, and an inability to focus. 

Getting organized is mental as much as it is physical. So before you shop for furniture, think about what your mind and body needs, as well as your vision for your space. What do you want to accomplish? And what, if any, are your blocks? 

Take a notepad and pen, or some colored pencils. Close your eyes and settle into your breathe. Allow your mind to clear, and when you’re ready, imagine yourself walking into your ideal dream office. What do you see? Are there bright windows, smiling employees, and awards lining walls? Does the room pop with color? Or is it subdued and subtle? Is your environment sparse and clutter-free? Or busy and full of life? How do you feel when you walk into your dream space? And if you already have a space, ask yourself, what is it about your office environment that’s keeping you stuck? Write down or draw a visual goal for your business, and if you are clairsentient like me, how you feel about the space. 

Move Desks Away From Walls

Goods desk are a must have for any entrepreneurial venture. But don’t be fooled, desks don’t need to live against walls. By instinct, when faced with an empty room most people push desks against walls as they think it maximizes space (same with beds). The truth is, a desk placed a few feet away from a wall, with space on either side for chairs, is the best use of space. This setup allows you to be on one side and have a meeting with someone on the other. It also creates a more professional presentation for visitors. And, it and sneakily makes rooms appear bigger. A desk on a wall facing is window is an exception. But but in some spaces this setup can mean having your back to the door, so weigh your options. Personally, I find a desk pulled three feet from the wall or at a 90 degree angle to a window or door is ideal.

If you have a tiny office footprint, don’t worry, the same holds true for small spaces. Small spaces can be tricky, as we convince ourselves we can’t waste even a half foot of space. But you’d be surprised how an angled desk even in only a few square feet can make a difference. These days people are co-working like crazy (like my friends at WeWork) and a tiny plot of land to work is commonplace. So pull your desk from the wall, in any sized office, and take note as it positively changes your space.

Display Your Brand

As the world says, ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’. I’ve walked into countless offices over the years that miss the unique opportunity to display their brand on the first impression. Your brand might be your product, so you can display that. But it might also be your culture, your colors or your business vision.

When someone steps into your office, what message will they receive? And what message are you trying to send? Do you want products on the walls? A poster with your company logo? Or would you rather project a sensory brand, so how you wish your clients and customers to feel? We’ve all heard about the famous Google office design. You can go creative and playful, or keep things more on a more serious beat. No matter your message, just make sure you define it before it defines you. And don’t overthink what you think you should project (messy and busy – we’re working hard! or clean and calm – we’re ordered!). Instead stay focused on your heart and big picture, then get to it. Keep in mind, a sterile office does not an organized employee make, no more than a clean desk versus a chaotic one defines how we think.

Maximize Space By Going Vertical

Don’t let shelf height define how you run your business. Are you making the most of your shelving and wall space? Take a close look at your office shelves. How far apart are they spaced? Most office items are small, so on average office shelves can be between 9-12 inches. But you may want one shelf that is tall, for oversized things.

If your office shelves are adjustable, move them around according to your needs. And if not, introduce shelf dividers to split one shelf into two. Shelf dividers are ideal for both storing and stacking small items, like business cards or give-aways. Or try something more solid, like these assembly free stackable storage cubes from Bed Bath & Beyond. If you can, try to keep things off the floor. The more you draw the eye ‘up’ the more you can elevate the energy an intention of your office environment.

Categorize According To You

There’s no one way to get organized. The best you can do is to categorize according to you. Take a close look at the items in your office cabinets and shelves. What are the items telling you about how you work, and how you run your business?

Start with any shelf, then hold one item in your hand and ask yourself, “What is this?” Be honest about the story behind the item, then place it a pile according to its use. Do this for all the items on your shelf making a list as you go, until you have a better sense of the types of categories in your office, such as ‘new blog ideas’ or ‘office supplies I meant to use but never got around to’. Once done, put items back according to their group.

When it comes to office organization, create systems by grouping items used regularly on nearest shelves, or on your desk. And release and let go of items that no longer serve you.

Create a 'Go Zone'

Our office is our money-maker, and if we aren’t careful, all the stuff of life that comes in the door tends to accumulate on our desks or by the door. To keep your office from becoming a catchall for carry-ins set up a ‘go zone‘ or ‘drop zone’ by your front door so you can set those things aside as you’re walking in. Make it a permanent home for your wallet and keys, and a temporary place to drop loose ends or bags from midday errands so these items don’t make it into your office, and never leave.

Also, many of us carry the same things with us when we go to outside meetings, or to see clients. My client, a public speaking coach, had a ‘bag of tricks’ that she brought with her to every class she taught, including a voice recorder, video camera, and bag of voice coaching tools. If you find yourself grabbing the same things every time you leave the office for an event or meeting, make a permanent home for these items nearby the door so you never have to search for what you need.

Think Green

When it comes to business, green usually means cash. But let’s not forget mother nature. We spend so much of our lives plugged in and looking at screens. To balance this out, bring plants into your office. Not only will they look lovely, but they’ll help to clean the air and revitalize your office. Don’t be fooled, there are plenty of interior plants that thrive in low light. Some great options are philodendron, pothos, peace lily, snake plants, and spider plants. Need a suggestion? Ask your Home Depot or Lowe’s plant department for help.

If you already have plants in your office, add a new one – you can never have too many! And, don’t forget to clean your existing plants. It’ll make them happier, and your office environment brighter (check out my how to clean indoor plants video).

Embrace The Tray

As I’ve shared with Good Housekeeping, trays are one of the organizational tools I swear by (or in a more casual office setting, a basket). Trays or baskets are ideal for keeping ‘like things’ together. For example, store all daily use office supplies together on the desk grouped by a tray. Or, store all business cards on a tray that lives on a nearby shelf. Trays quickly slide off the shelf, for easy access to items in the back, and are easy to carry to other parts of your office, or to your conference room.

Look for bright colors that match your brand and decor. Clear trays work ok too, but a colorful tray draws attention away from the bits and pieces inside. Trays are also idea for those of you who are prone to dumping stuff down, as they provide a target. It’s okay to let things hang loose when they’re contained inside a tray’s tiny walls.

Go Digital, But Don't Forget Your Notepad

There’s no denying, we live in the digital age. But are we fully there yet? More and more I see clients who feel pressured to go digital. They understand paper is obsolete in the workspace, and yet they crave the comfort and tactile nature of holding a notebook, a memo, or jotting notes down on paper.

It’s a mistake to assume that because we can browse papers online and read memos on our phones that the working world is done with paper. Even some sleek, modern office environments are acknowledging that a glass-only, paper-free world isn’t the best way to go. If you’ve got paper issues, the secret to keeping the paper beast at bay is to acknowledge that you contribute to it, then embrace the paper you need to keep you grounded during your day. So bring on the laptops, but don’t be shy about keeping a notebook handy for moments when it feels good to write things down. As a recent workshop participant said, “Writing things down is how I learn.”  That’s something our digital age can never take away.

Use Inner Storage

Sometimes a drawer just isn’t enough. If you find that your office drawers are getting out of hand, try some organization inside the drawer as well. Small bowls from home, drawer dividers or sturdy wooden boxes from the store help to keep track of and maintain the insides of larger drawers. Like trays and baskets, inner storage is an ideal solution for keeping ‘like things’ together.

Do you have a junk drawer in your office? Junk drawers greatly benefit from inner storage too. Despite their name, junk drawers need to be intentional. They’re intended for quick grab access to small, miscellaneous things we need once in awhile, like packing tape or a screwdriver. Review your junk drawer and remove anything you don’t use regularly, or that does not support your office needs or your office productivity goals. I junk drawer item that is not used or wrongly placed in your office consumes valuable real estate.

Build In Time For Pick Up

Last but not least, as you go about your day, build in time for pickup. We all have weeks when things get out of control. You might be catching up after an illness, or an unexpected meeting or event. Get into the practice of building in time at the start or end of each work day or work week to get your office in order.

If you’re a morning person, reset your desk at the top of each day. As simple as ten minutes to review what got done, and what needs attention, will do the trick. Or if you think more clearly at night, clear things off as you wrap your day. Think about how you want to start your day – or the top of your week – and then get to it. As for the merits of keeping a clean versus a chaotic desk? Check out my thoughts on right brained vs. left brained thinking. Or, check out these expert decoding your desk tips in HowStuffWorks.

Want more office tips? Check out: 6 Secrets to Creating the Perfect Home Office

Photo Credits: Unsplash, Kaboompics, Pexels, The Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond, Picjumbo

Maeve Richmond is the founder and head coach of Maeve's Method, a home organization system based in New York City. She specializes in parents & kids, couples, small space solutions, space planning and decorative elements for the home. Contact her at [email protected] or @MaeveRichmond.

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