The 6 Basic Principles of an Organized Office

Your work space has a bigger impact on your productivity than you might imagine.


A cluttered, disorganized office slows you down and makes you less productive, while an organized, streamlined office can help you to become a better and more efficient employee. Feel like you don’t have any time to organize your office? Think again.messy office

Following these six basic principles will help you to become and stay more organized, saving you time that would otherwise be wasted sorting through the clutter around your desk.

1. Only Touch Documents Once

According to professional organizer Ellen Delap, executives spend 6 weeks of every year just looking for documents. Imagine how much of that time could be saved if you only touched each document once. No more rifling through papers again and again. No more searching for the same file multiple times.

Instead, when you receive a file, digitize it immediately. Put it into an electronic document management system where the document becomes a searchable PDF file. And if you receive the files electronically in the first place, immediately enter it into your DMS—you don’t even need to touch the physical file once. After the files are in the DMS, they become easier and faster to find, saving you time that would otherwise be spent elbow-deep in a filing cabinet drawer.

As an added bonus, you’ll clear out those piles of paper that are always surrounding you on your desk. A less cluttered workspace will give you a greater sense of control over your environment and help you to become more effective as you work.

2. Establish Functional Work Zones

Each section of your office should have a dedicated purpose. Some of these zones will be obvious; where your computer is located is where you do all of your computer-related work. Other zones will have to be established. First, establish a zone for any non-computer work. This may include things like sorting through mail or reviewing other physical files (before you digitize them, of course).

You can establish this zone in a separate area of your office, or on the same desk where you do your computer work. Just make sure that you have a clear, designated space for this type of work, and don’t allow clutter or other items take over that space.

You will also want to establish zones for activities like filing and digitizing files. Make sure you have everything you need in these areas in order to complete this task. Have the scanner near the filing cabinets, and a shredder nearby. This allows you to quickly grab a file, scan it into your system, and shred it without having to walk across the office to do it.

Create a designated zone for every task you complete on a regular basis, and ensure you always have the tools you need close at hand for that zone’s work. This will make sure you don’t have to hunt for things and can remain completely effective with every minute you spend in the office.

3. Don’t Let Paper Touch Your Desk

Paper is one of the biggest clutter-causers in any office, so if you want to ensure that your space stays organized, it’s best to never let paper even touch your desk. Of course, there will be times when papers are brought to you or documents need to be reviewed. Don’t let people just toss the documents into a messy pile on your desk.

Instead, put some kind of paper receptacle on your desk or on your door. When people bring you documents, just point to the paper tray on your desk. Though it would be best to keep things in electronic format, using a tray at least keeps items organized and reminds you that those documents still need your attention.

Better yet, if you have your own office, hang a paper receptacle on the door for people to drop in contracts, mail, and other files. This makes it so that you’re not interrupted every time someone needs to hand a document to you, allowing you to stay on task at all times.

4. Organize Your Office Supplies

We’ve already talked about having the right supplies in the right work zones, but you should take that idea one step further and ensure that every office supply you use is properly organized. First and foremost, this means not keeping all of your supplies out on your desk. Sure, you may have spent a little extra to have that super cute matching stapler and hole puncher, but you shouldn’t keep them out on display. This just adds to the clutter on your desk.

Keep your office supplies in an organized, easy-to-reach space like a desk drawer. Use organizing trays to keep small items like paperclips organized. Office supplies that are frequently used together should be close to each other—notepads should be near the pens, extra staples should be near the stapler, and so on.

Use a separate drawer or storage space for your personal items, like your wallet, sunglasses, and phone. This will keep your personal items from getting in the way when you need supplies. Plus, you won’t have to dig through all of your drawers at the end of the day, wondering where you left your keys.

5. Get a Bigger Trashcan

This might sound a little strange, but it can be surprisingly effective. When you get documents that you don’t need, you may be tempted to through it in an “I’ll deal with this later” pile. Dealing with paper is one of the most time-consuming tasks in an office, and therefore, it is the one that people put off the most. But most papers can either be discarded, or digitized and then discarded.

A larger trashcan has more of a physical presence, so you will be more aware of it and think of it more often, and will therefore be more likely to use it. Rather than piling up those papers to “deal with later,” you can quickly toss whatever needs to be tossed. In fact, make it a bigger recycle bin instead of a bigger trashcan; you can save the environment while saving your desk space.

6. The Five-Minute Rule

Don’t think that organizing your office is a one-time task. It is something that takes regular effort—but luckily, it doesn’t take much. Dedicate at least 5 minutes of your day to keeping your office organized. This is best done at the end of the day, when you can clear your desk and get yourself reorganized for the next day. Don’t skip this important task. Putting it off will result in things piling up, and if you’re not careful, you’ll once again be left with a disorganized space.

Put in just a few minutes every day, and your desk can stay neat and organized, and you’ll be more efficient as a result.


Though initially organizing your office will take a bit of time and effort, you will get that time back ten times over by improving your productivity and eliminating a lot of wasted time. As we mentioned many times in this article, paper is one of the biggest time wasters in your office, and puts a huge damper on your ability to be efficient. So if you are dealing with large amounts of paper, make it your priority to deal with that problem first.

eFileCabinet offers an easy way to digitize those papers so that you only have to touch them once, and they stay off of your desk for good. Look into this document management solution so you can be on your way to a more organized office.

Sources: Inc, Cio, LifeHack