A clear space leads to a clear mind, wherever you choose to work from. Whether you’re at home or in the office, staying organized is the key to maximizing your productivity. That means keeping your desk top and your desktop clutter-free.
After a hectic day, it may sound like an impossible task, but trust us—the you of tomorrow will be grateful if you just follow a few of our top tips. Keep reading below for our complete guide on how to organize your workspace for maximum productivity.
Step-by-step how to tidy your physical workspace
Step 1. Reduce, reduce and reduce some more!
Do you really need everything on your desk? Our first tip is to embrace minimalism and only keep the most important things in or on your workspace. If you don’t need it, get rid of it! Shred your old paperwork, toss out your broken pens and store away any electronics you don’t use on a regular basis. That way, you’ll have fewer things to organize.
Step 2. Give everything a home
Designate a spot for each item and make sure it’s returned to this place by the end of your workday. Pens go in the pen holder, papers go in the paper tray, and files are saved in their respective folders. The best way to avoid disarray is to make a habit of putting things back where they belong before you step away from your workspace.
You may also want to choose where items will live on your desk based on how often you use them. For example, if you don’t write often, you may not need to keep your pens on top of your desk. Instead, you may benefit from having a drawer dedicated to stationery items to free up desk space.
Step 3. Contain your containers
Everyone’s first instinct when organizing any space is to put everything in a box. That may sound convenient at first, but what often happens is that you end up forgetting what’s inside.
If you’ve already passed the “reducing” stage of your organization journey and you still have items that need to be packed away, be conscious of how you are sorting them. Put similar items together so that it’ll feel natural to reach for the correct box. For example, if you’re looking for spare notepads, you’ll look in the “extra stationery” container. You’ll also want to make sure every box is properly labeled.
Step 4. Love your label maker
Speaking of labels, there’s no point in storing everything in a filing cabinet if you can’t find it again. Whether you have shelves filled with books and media, or filing drawers stuffed with folders, you should be able to find what you need in a matter of seconds.
For files and books kept on shelves, try a numerical or alphabetical system that is clearly labeled, either with tabs or labels placed on the spines of books and binders.
Files in cabinets should also be clearly labeled in a manner that makes the most sense to you. Maybe alphabetizing doesn’t make as much sense as grouping files into categories. Think about how you associate the contents of various files in your mind, and label each file according to those specifications.
Step 5. Digitize your documents
Avoid losing important documents and clear away paper clutter by scanning and saving them to the cloud. There are plenty of apps that do this, but our favorite is Shoeboxed’s Receipt Tracker.
When using the app, all you need to do is take a photo of each document using your mobile device and upload it. This digital copy will be saved to the cloud, which is accessible anywhere and anytime. To learn how to scan your receipts, check out our helpful guide.
The app will also transcribe the text on each document using optical character recognition (OCR) technology. That way, you can easily generate reports or search for your documents. Talk about convenient!
If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by your paper clutter, don’t forget to check out Shoeboxed’s Magic Envelope service. Simply place all of your documents and receipts into the prepaid envelope and send them off. Our dedicated team will handle the rest!
If you don’t have a mobile device handy or you’re looking to scan a high volume of documents on a regular basis, check out these top five document scanning machines.
Step 6. Go paperless
We can all agree that paper clutter is an eyesore. Especially in the digital age, having to create physical copies of a document is not only time-consuming but also costly and wasteful. Unless your client is specifically requesting a paper copy, we recommend opting for a PDF or Word doc format instead. And when getting receipts and invoices, you can always ask for an emailed version.
See also: Best 50 Ways to Go Paperless
Step-by-step how to organize your digital workspace
Step 1. File your files
Perhaps your physical workspace is tidy, but when was the last time you organized your virtual workspace? There’s nothing more chaotic than having a desktop full of assorted files, but it can happen in an instant. It’s the easiest place to save your work, right?
Having an efficient filing system will not only visually improve your workspace but also significantly increase your productivity. Searching for files is time-consuming, and you run the risk of losing important information if they aren’t saved correctly.
This means creating folders that are appropriately named and making sure the correct files are stored away where they belong. While we recommend organizing your folders in a way that makes the most sense to you, it might not always be easy to get started.
Here’s a great video to jumpstart your desktop organization:
Step 2. Delete unnecessary apps and files
It’s hard to hit the delete button. You can never have too many funny cat memes, downloaded TikTok videos, and vacation photos (all taken in similar angles, mind you). But what about those year-old screenshots and browser extensions we never use?
Deleting unused apps and unnecessary files will not only help to declutter your computer, but it will also save space on your hard drive! You may want to do this before you start organizing your documents so you don’t have to sort through your files twice.
The first time you do this will be the most tedious, but we promise it gets easier. We recommend taking some time every week to delete old files you’re positive you won’t need in the future. The process will feel quicker and more efficient as you get into the habit of it.
Step 3. Use a task management app
Your digital workspace does not solely consist of your documents and files. It also includes your calendar, email, to-do list, and more. To reach maximum productivity, you need to make sure that all your ducks are in a row. That’s why we recommend using a task management app.
Task management apps are a great way to sort through and prioritize your work. Gone are the days of the old-fashioned to-do list haphazardly scribbled on a notepad—although if this is your style, many task management apps do have a scratch pad.
Level up your task management by making project-specific lists, assigning tasks to your colleagues, and setting goals and due dates to keep yourself on-track.
Step 4. Categorize your inbox
Whether you use Outlook, Gmail, or another email service, they all share one thing in common—they’re magnets for clutter. Even with spam filters, there is no escaping one-word replies (like “Thanks!”) and email chains you didn’t need to be a part of. All of these contribute to inbox clutter.
There are ways to organize your emails, but they aren’t always intuitive. Gmail, for example, normally sorts all incoming emails into four categories: “Inbox,” “Promotions,” “Social,” “Updates,” and “Forums.” These tabs can be hidden, but cannot be deleted, and you also can’t create new ones. Instead, you can create labels that you can add to already-read mail.
Sound confusing? Don’t worry. These videos below will take you through some great email organization tips and more.
If you’re an Outlook user, we love this email management video by Leila Gharani:
For Gmail users, try this guide by Amy Landino:
Your inbox is your communications lifeline, especially if you work remotely, so make sure you take a little time out of your day—every day—to sort through and file your emails.
Frequently asked questions
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Don’t let a chaotic workspace stop you from reaching your career goals. Maintaining good organization habits will lead to a more enjoyable, productive, and fulfilling workday. It will also leave a lasting impression on any colleagues or clients who pay you a visit (or with whom you may share your screen). Follow our tips on how to organize your workspace for maximum productivity, and you’ll be well on your way to a calm, balanced, and inviting work environment.
Shoeboxed is a receipt scanning service that supports multiple methods for receipt capture: send, scan, upload, forward, and more!
You can stuff your receipts into one of our Magic Envelopes (prepaid postage within the US). Use our receipt app (iPhone, iPad and Android) to snap a picture while on the go. Auto-import receipts from Gmail. Or forward a receipt to your designated Shoeboxed email address.
Turn your receipts into data and deductibles with our expense reports that include IRS-accepted receipt images.
Join over 1 million businesses scanning & organizing receipts, creating expense reports and more—with Shoeboxed.
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