Checklist For an Efficient Workspace

Does clutter make you feel overwhelmed & out of control?

Here is a simple checklist to use to create/refine a workspace that is effective, efficient & distraction free!  Check off each item as you complete the instructions & see what a difference it makes to your tendency towards clutter…

DESK management

  • Remove distracting objects from your field of view when sitting at your desk in the ready work position.  Place personal items & pictures in specific locations or behind you out of sight when working.  Remove & store out of sight excess (clutter!) ie pen or pencil holders, tape dispensers, staplers, or other tools that are not used daily.
  • Place your telephone(s) on weak side of desk (if right handed, then on your left side).
    Place your phone directory, next to the telephone.
    Remove note pads, & post-it note pads.
  • Use one calendar commitment system such as a day planner.  Keep your day planner open & ready to use on the desk strong side (right side if you are right handed).  Write all notes, commitments, voice-mails, & other items of interest there on a daily basis.
  • On the inside cover of your diary have a MASTER TO-DO-LIST; a page which is the ongoing list of tasks for you to achieve.
  • Type a list of all the phone numbers, codes, extensions, policy numbers & repeatedly required information & pin above your phone on your pin board. (Instead of several old post-it notes)
  • Grab a plastic-sleeved book and create your ‘bible’ of all the information you need at your fingertips. (I have one at home called, ‘To do, To buy, To get, To fix’ which hold all my bills and papers to be actioned.)
  • Create a place for everything & put it back after you’ve used it.

Aim for effectiveness, not neatness. Neatness as an end in itself can even be risky: Putting things away just to clear clutter off your desk can cause you to lose or forget them. At the end of the day put everything left in one pile for sorting, first thing the next morning.

Clutter is rarely caused by insufficient space or time. The culprit is usually indecisiveness. So be selective about what you bring into your office. If you are clear about what you value & what your goals are, being selective is not hard.

In-Trays & Toaster racks

  • Establish a visibly labelled In-Tray “For Bek” outside the opening to your office area for others to use.
  • Create an ‘URGENT’ In-Tray, an ‘IMPORTANT’ & ‘PENDING’ In-Tray.  Place these trays together, out of eyesight, to avoid eye jumping.  Prioritise all the items in each basket placing the highest priority item on top.  Create & place your ‘FINISHED’ In-Tray where it may be seen. File its contents once a week.
  • Have a toaster rack for clearly labelled manilla folders that are being used today/this week.


  • Establish TALK-TO-Files for each colleague or team member to store notes & communications that will be shared at one or two planned times.  (Kept in Toaster rack)
  • Establish READ-File for articles, updates or other materials you would like to read.  (Kept in Toaster rack)
  • Establish REFERENCE & HISTORICAL files out of sight, in filing cabinets.
  • Use color-coded folders for easy visual identification of files (eg red – projects, blue – people, green – read, etc.).  File alphabetically with titles you are familiar with.

I recommend you label the file properly. The easiest way to do this is to buy a label maker. They are inexpensive, neat, practical, small and easy to store in a drawer when you are done. File your folders alphabetically.

Don’t save paper that you’re not willing to spend time filing: every item needs one of the following actions –

1. Handle it
2. File it,
3. Delegate it
4. Get rid of it

The clean up process can take a lot of time. Obviously, the bigger the clutter and mess, the more effort will be involved in removing the items and applying the four options to each item. However, the reward at the end is well worth it.

At the end of the process, you should be left with a clean work area. The only things that should be left out are the things you are immediately working on. This is very important. At the end of the day, there should be nothing on the top of your desk except your monitor, telephone and minimal accessories such as two pens and two pencils in a holder. The only thing that should ever be on top of a workspace should be the one thing you are actively engaged in. Everything else that you are currently working on should be filed or delegated to someone else.