Having a well-organized office can make your life much easier. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Adequate lighting is a must and oftentimes task lighting (a gooseneck lamp, for example) is the key to successfully reading printed materials. Combine an overhead fixture for general room lighting with a good desk lamp for task lighting. See the Lighting article for more information.

  • A reading stand with an adjustable arm can also be a great help for holding material you are copying from or referring to while on the computer.

  • One word: Ergonomics. Chair and desk choice and placement should allow you to flow from one task to another smoothly. If you find yourself bending uncomfortably every time you answer the phone or retrieve a file, then some rearranging is in order. Tools and storage items that you access frequently should be positioned close together and in a location you can get to with minimum effort.
seated man stretching to reach a file in a desk top file holder

If you often stretch uncomfortably to reach items on your desk, you may want to change your desk’s set-up.

  • Place file documents you are currently working on in a portable expanding file folder on the surface of your desk rather than in a file drawer.

  • When you do place files in a desk or file drawer, make use of hanging folders with labels that are above the file itself. Many hanging folders come with stiff plastic labels that protrude above the file, or you can purchase hard plastic slip-on label holders that slip on the top edge of a hanging file. Stagger the labels to make them easier to see and/or to count. See the File Management page for more tips.

  • Consider cleaning out your desk drawers every quarter (every 3 months), or at least semi-annually (every 6 months). Tossing outdated or unneeded items regularly frees up valuable storage space and helps keep files current and easily accessible.

  • Clear off the top of your desk daily, or at least once a week. The less clutter, the easier it is to find things.

  • Keep only essential items on your desktop (computer, phone, printer/fax, CCTV, Rolodex or card file, note pad or digital recorder, pens, and the like).

  • Using paper with bold or raised lines can be helpful for writing and taking notes. Large print address books or a large-card Rolodex with plenty of bold tipped pens at the ready are handy for accessing or recording phone numbers and addresses. As an alternative, a small digital recorder can be used to temporarily store such information. See the Writing Tools and Techniques article for more information.

  • Mark your keyboard’s home keys (J and F), the 5 on your number pads and on/off switches with raised dots or brightly colored puff paint (or use a 3D pen such as Hi-Marks). This will enable you to see and feel the right keys, buttons and switches quickly.
close-up view of a multifunction copier/printer/fax machine with tactile dots on the Start button

Marking important buttons on your office equipment will make it easier to operate; here, a tactile dot is placed on the blue Start button of a combination copier/print/fax machine.

  • If more than one person uses your home office, create and label an inbox and outbox for each person’s paper files. Do the same for all email accounts.

  • Create a separate drawer for each person for personal items, including personal paperwork.

  • Have a master “to-do” list for each day at your desk and mark off each item as completed.

  • Keep your incoming mail sorted; for example, consider setting up files with labels like To File, To Read, or To Contact (write or call).

  • Use a variety of containers to organize loose office supplies, such as paper clips, staples, pens, envelopes, stamps, etc.

  • Use a variety of desktop organizers (vertical or expanding file holders) or trays to organize papers that come across your desk.

  • Use storage boxes to store dated files that you no longer need immediate access to for business.

  • Purchase magazine boxes to store booklets, magazines, or catalogs you want to keep. Mark the spines with large print labels for easy access.

  • Rather than keeping entire magazines, create a file for articles you want to keep or scan them into your computer.

  • Remember to straighten your desk at the end of the day and again at the end of the week. Starting fresh with a clear desk means no wasted time searching for what you need.

Bonus Tip!

  • Keep takeout menus from your favorite restaurants in a designated file or posted on your bulletin board. That way you can eat what you want when you want it, instead of searching endlessly for the menu from that Chinese takeout place.

Ed Brock: Connecting to the World Through Technology Video

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