Anyone that uses a desk, whether in the office or at home, will tell you that keeping a desk tidy is the best way to improve productivity. Have you ever sat down at your desk, finding that you spend wasted time digging for a pen, a manual, the stapler, only to find pile after pile of paperwork hiding everything? Then, as you look at the piles of paper, you determine that even that holds secrets, meaning you have no idea what important things are tucked inside.

Keeping a desk tidy will not only help with productivity but it will also make for a better attitude. The truth is that while a cluttered desk may appear as “being busy”, it actually makes you look disorganized. In fact, many employers say that an employee that does not keep a tidy desk is often viewed as a procrastinator and possessing poor time management skills, not labels you want. Instead, you want to present your workspace as neat and clean, giving the impression of you being on top of things.

Typically, people will keep personal items on top of the desk, which is fine but this too can be overkill. To keep a tidy desk, we recommend you keep the number of family and pet pictures to a minimum. Additionally, one plant would be nice but this, along with figurines, gadgets, trinkets, and so on, should again be kept to a minimum. If you eat at your desk, make sure you have a drawer designated for the clean plate, bowl, eating utensils, and food. That way, when lunch is over, the items are out of sight.

Because people spend so much time at work, having some personal effects is important but too much of a good thing can actually become negative. Therefore, choose one, possibly two photos, a small plant, and if possible, nothing more. In addition to keeping the desk tidy on the surface for personal items, you also want to make the desk space more functional. For this, try to organize your work into three distinct categories to include priority, non-priority, and reference material.

A great solution is to have stackable trays, each labeled accordingly. This way, as work comes across your desk, you can place things in the appropriate tray. In addition, you can keep the desk tidy by having your drawers organized. This means using color-coded file folders, dated folders for time sensitive material, notebooks, etc. In the center drawer, a small accessory tray works well. With this, you would have easy access to pens, paperclips, staple removers, letter openers, etc.

The truth is that getting and keeping a desk tidy is not difficult. You may need to go through several piles initially but once you have things in place, follow the system chosen to stay on top of things. As you have probably heard growing up, “everything in its place”. You will actually feel better about what you do when your desk is neat and orderly. Keeping a tidy desk makes you feel as if you were accomplishing more while reducing tremendous stress.