Optimal Workstation Organization

View of employee workstation

I have been thinking more about organization recently, and then a friend shared her new post “3: My workstation”. I think it’s a beautiful post and a great idea. My desk area at work and home is usually neat enough to find things and stay focused, but I could do better.

When I was teaching, papers would pile up and, much to my shame, I’d easily lose track items. In a fast paced job, your workstation organization needs frequent updates.

Now I am involved in more IT, most of my notes and resources are digital. However, my desk layout still plays a huge part in giving me focus and motivating me.

Workstation layout and tidiness offers much more than just utility. It’s a way to subtly remind yourself of values and goals.

The Eastern philosophy of feng shui says that the right combination and arrangement in the environment will harmonize your qi. I am not sure about the astrology of geomancy, but our setting can condition the psyche in different ways. I wrote previously about the connotation of colors and their use in branding.

Think about it. What kind of image do you people to see? How do you want to see yourself? Your station is a projection of your personality.

Albert Einstein is often quoted saying:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

That all being said, I wanted to expand on Jen’s post and elaborate on my own ideas of an organized workstation.

Ideas for Work Station Organization

To start us off, here are just a few way to organize your workstation:

1 – Start Fresh

First of all, you might find it useful to just clear everything and start completely fresh. When the desk is clear, you’ll have a good idea of what surface area you actually have available.

As you’re removing items, make two sortings: the keep pile and the trash pile. Scraps of paper and outdated notes you should can toss. Don’t hold onto junk. Hoarding isn’t healthy..

Then, take a damp towel and clean clean the surface. If it’s a workstation you’ve been using a long time, it probably has a buildup of dust. You might want to vacuum and spray cleaners as necessary.

Next, take some measurements of all the keep items and start to brainstorm. How can you conserve space? You might be able to stack things or creatively use the walls and drawers.

2 – File and Sort

The most important items on your workstation will likely be your documents. You’ll want to prioritize the security of your training materials, legal forms, and project drafts. The confidential material should be kept in a locked drawer or safebox.

Books, binders, and notebooks should be arranged nicely with ends, perhaps by topic or alphabetical order.

It pays to invest in sorting trays and similar organizers for all your loose papers. Label each tray or bin a certain category that makes sense for your projects. These groupings could be the same kanbans you use in Trello or other management programs. Make them simple and general to start, like “Brainstorm”, “WIP”, “On Hold”, and “Completed”.

Finally, put all your accessories in small containers and keep them within easy access. Separate pens, highlighters, staples, paperclips, etc…

3 – Consider Technology

You should consider next your technology arrangement.

The allotted space for your computer should allow plenty of elbow room to type freely and have good posture. Remember to hide away all the wires. Having a wild mess of cords takes up a lot of space – tape them to the backboard and feed them neatly together.  

How many monitors do you actually need? You’ll get lost with too many tabs open on one screen. Depending on your projects, you might benefit from 2-3 large screen monitors at the cost of some physical space.

Decide if you’ll a seperate table for the printer. You’ll need room around it for the paper feeder to extend, open the scanner lid, and for maintenance and toner changes.

If you have an office landline, find some compatible headphones. The ability to type notes on a phone conversation as you’re talking is invaluable.

4 – Color Code

Visuals help your workstation pop and keep you focused. Remember colors evoke powerful emotions in the right context. Take advantage of color to code sticky notes and containers for labels  

Red is danger, so it works for labelling trays to contain overdue items. Green is associated with money and could label bills and invoices. Blue is a relaxing color for meeting minutes or general notes.

You can color sticky notes, folders, and OneNote files on your computer. You might as well make them match your physical system.

5 – Personalize

The workstation is your own personal space, not just a function of work. Use it to express yourself. Post up pictures and mementos of family, events, and achievements. Remind yourself of what’s really important.

Personalizing your workspace also shows to your coworker that you’re human. You have a heart and a life outside of work.

5 – Update

As the work changes, you workstation layout should change with it. New policies might require a new system of organization. Don’t be afraid to adapt and go with the flow.

You should also clean your working enviroment. Wipe down the surface and vacuum underneath it. As the year progresses, you’ll accumulate notes and references that are no longer relevant. Feel free to trash them.

Set aside one day a month for deep cleaning of the office space.  

Example: My Workstation

My work area is by far not a perfect model. Yet, it works for me. I feel a sense of acceptance and satisfaction with how I control the space.

Here’s what it looks like:

Left Side of the Workstation

workstation with phone

To the left of my computer I have several items I use daily.

My books are essential! Without them, my downtime at work would be dreadfully boring. I am trying to get through two books now: Chazown by Craig Groeschel and The Once and Future King by T.H White. Sometimes, I am distracted by social media or YouTube, but the idea is to read a few chapters of each and track my progress.

Reading anything effectively requires some reflection. I am trying to record my favorite quotes. They might come in handy if I need inspiration later in life. Or something like that.

I have the small white binder in hopes to draft and organize training material. My vision is to create a manual of everything I do. Then, if I am ever out sick, my coworkers will know protocol and will survive without me for a day. Plus, it would be courteous for me to pass it down to a worthy successor. I’ll crop in lots of screenshots and visuals.

Not sure why but my pens always disappear. Stealing one of the coffee cups from the cafe was a great decision to keep them all together.

The map is super important! Each floor of building has the same basic layout, which makes things awfully confusing when I am trying to find a specific printer. There’s no visible landmarks besides the color of the carpet. I have to sketch out a diagram each time from the elevator to where I need to go.

The metal filing bin is more of a memento than a useful work tool. I bought back in 2015 for my first classroom. One of my students scribbled some cute illustration with marker on the side. It’s faded, but I can still see the crude colorful lines. At least I know I had a positive impact on one kid that year… I’ll eventually gather enough folder to keep in the bin.

Right Side of the Workstation

workstation with personal decorations

The right is actually my little shrine of inspiring icons and acts as my escape.

There’s the mighty Captain America. He’s the my favorite superhero. His fiercely determined expression gives me some sense of hope.

Next, we have my Lara Croft Funko figurine. She’s a tough lady and an encouragement in trying times. I love the story of most of the games. However, my review of Tomb Raider (2018) is less than satisfying. Unfortunately, the mini Croft has trouble standing on her own, so I have to lean her arm against the truck.

In my last job, the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) mailed me the model semi truck along with some sales material. It’s a nice token to remind me of my accomplishments in the transportation and logistics fields.

I wrote a lot of sales pages and blogs for a car lease company years ago. My grandmother bought me the collectable 1967 Pontiac Firebird “Carrot Machine” model at a garage sale. When I look at it, I fondly recall when I mass produced content for those vehicles. It wasn’t the best job looking back, but I am happy how far I’ve come in life.

My friend gifted me the glass sculpture of the hand holding the moon as part of a secret Santa. It does light up yellow or blue (I keep forgetting to charge it). Personally, it reminds me of God’s provision and sovereignty in creation. No matter what’s going on in life, I know there’s a purpose behind it.

My coworker randomly gave out American flag pins one day.

The Greek Festival keychain came from an event in my company.     

For work purposes, I don’t need the little calendar whiteboard. Every company event and meeting is automatically scheduled in Outlook. It’s just a nice visual upcoming personal stuff.


Well, that’s about it for my workstation. Maybe it’s time for you rearrange your station and optimize space! Organization keeps some order to life – but as long as it makes sense to you, you’re good.

The main idea is to create a logical system and stick to it and also give it some personal touches.

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About the Author: Jonathan Crow

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