By Christa Schwandtner, 07.01.2020

The international “clean off your desk” day takes place just in time for the New Year. The second Monday of the year reminds us to take a thorough inventory of our own desks, be it in the company or home office, or students’ hall of residence. In this hour of tidying up, objects and documents that have long since been forgotten often surface, and it seems that their only real task is to simply take up space.


In order to make it easier for you to get down to the job of tidying up, we would like to introduce you to the Eisenhower principle. This tactic can be easily adapted to keeping your desk neat and orderly. Apart from the photo of your nearest and dearest, organise the paperwork on your desk into four categories: 1. To be thrown away, 2. To be forwarded, 3. Important and 4. For immediate attention. Now take each of these items and documents that are on your desk one by one and assign them to a category. Think carefully because there are no “intermediate categories”, nor is there a fifth or sixth box. You need to be decisive:


  1. To be thrown away:
    You definitely do not need these documents or items anymore. Instead of a box or drawer for this category you can make immediate use of the rubbish bin.
  2. To be forwarded:
    Documents that should be delegated, tasks that you cannot do yourself, and books that need to be returned . This box contains everything that you will not be able to do yourself in the foreseeable future or for which you have no use, but others do.
  3. Important:
    You need these items to complete certain tasks. Keep these documents within easy reach so that you have them to hand at all times.
  4. For immediate attention:
    These tasks are completed during or immediately after the tidying-up process. They are minor but essential tasks such as assigning notes, filing documents and so on.

Sounds simple and it is simple. The trick is to maintain this order after you have finished tidying up. Consistency is the key to good workplace organisation. Otherwise, next year will see another “clean off your desk” day.

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