On the list of office-related New Year’s resolutions, “get organized” is a popular item. While as discussed previously, I am against making resolutions and favor making goals since most people fail at resolutions, the end of the year is a terrific time to clear out the clutter and get organized.

The Benefits of Organization

Research has found that clutter can have negative effects on stress and anxiety levels, which hinders the ability to focus. Melissa Gratias, PhD, a productivity specialist with a background in industrial and organizational psychology suggests “to create a calmer atmosphere more conducive to dealing with stress, reserve your desk surface solely for things you use every single day. My favorite motivation to be organized comes from Dr Eva Selhub, M.D., author of Your Health Destiny: How to Unlock Your Natural Ability to Overcome Illness, Feel Better, and Live Longer: “When you’re organized at work, you’re more productive and efficient, which means you’re able to finish at a reasonable time and go home. This leaves you with the time you need to exercise, prepare a healthy meal, relax, and get more sleep.” (We will ignore the existence of last-minute deadlines that pop up or myriad other items that can disrupt this well-intentioned strategy.)

There are also non-verbal cues that clutter sends out. While some people believe that clutter is a sign of creativity, most literature points to your office as an extension of your personal appearance. A cluttered office could signal a cluttered mind. If you take care of your clothing and with your grooming, then it is generally best to apply that attention to the appearance of your office or workspace. Your coworkers will judge you based on your office. If you work at home or alone, being organized will de-stress you and perhaps make you feel more professional.

Whether you work at an office or at home, schedule (and yes, this means, sending yourself a calendar invite) a time dedicated to tidying up your office and setting up a system for 2020. Before you start your actual purging and organizing project, take a few days to pay attention to how you work and what items you use. Are you always searching for your glasses? You may want to assign them a place of honor on your desk. Here are some tips on how you can organize and increase your efficiency and productivity in the new year.

Clean Your Desk

Step 1. Clear everything off your desk

Dust the surface and begin looking at the items you removed. Only items that you use every day should be on your desk within easy reach. This can include notebook, computer, pens, etc. Other items can be filed, returned to their rightful places and owners. You can also have items that remind of why you do what you do, which can include family photos.

Some people suggest a series of inboxes or standing folders to track hand off, file, read, waiting on response. I personally believe that these items are clutter collectors and you are better off with the Touch Once golden rule: Act, file, or discard. This behooves you to clean out file cabinets and discard old items that you will never use again, making sure to leave room in the file cabinets for new items. If you have a digital, paperless office, all the better, you can still use the act, file or discard rule, making sure you have clearly labeled files and folders so that you will be able to search for and find what you need. You can also use this organizing time to back up files to a physical drive or cloud.

Commit to organization as an ongoing project

You cannot organize once and then be done because then entropy and disorder will naturally follow. You will need to spend time somewhere between daily and weekly to keep things organized. Fifteen minutes at the end of the day can be spent filing, straightening your desk, making your to-do list for the next day, etc.

You can make Organization your mantra for 2020 and with a little effort, reap many rewards. Feel free to add your own tips for an organized new year in the comments.