How to Organize Your Desk for Productivity

How to Organize Your Desk for Productivity

It’s time to work. I’m at my desk and I’m ready to go! Hmm, where are my pens? I need those to take some notes on my reading. And what are all these papers on my desk? Let me just take a minute to sift through them. Ooooo, what’s new on Twitter? I’ll check real quick. I look up and few hours have passed, but I’ve barely gotten any work done. Sigh.

Have you ever had a work or study session like this? You have all the best intentions, but you end up wasting time looking for supplies or get distracted by the things immediately around you! You might have the most awesome study space around, but if the things on your desk keep you from working – it’s not a great space for you.

Let’s talk about changes you can make in your study or work area to organize your desk, minimize distractions and get more done. Some changes are minor (move your phone) and others are bigger, such as purchasing organizers. But all of these are meant to make your desk more functional for you.

How to Organize Your Desk for Productivity

organize desk

Desk Monopoly

Think of your desk as tiers of valuable real estate. The most visible and easier to access something, the more valuable it is. Since most of us have played Monopoly at some point, I will use those properties as reference points here.

Your desktop is Park Place and Boardwalk – the most expensive and important. You want to keep the most vital items there, but only the items you need all the time. Your goal is to save time by keeping vital items accessible. 

The top drawer is Pennsylvania Ave (the green cards). It’s pricey, but not the most expensive. Keep items here that you use on a regular basis, so you can access them easily. I keep things like scissors, paper clips, and markers here.

The lower the drawer, the less valuable it is. The bottom drawer is like Mediterranean Ave – not in demand. By the time I hit the bottom drawer, it’s full of items I only use once in a while.

Less is More

The less stuff you have on your desk, the less that stuff can distract you. Try to pare down the items to the most essential. Which items do you use the most? Have those items on top to save time when you’re working. If you are taking notes by hand, having pens or pencils on top of the desk will save you time.

Other items might include your laptop, calendar or planner, a clock, preferably an old school one with hands, and a pen and pencil holder.

Let’s talk about an item to remove from your desktop – your phone. Your phone is the #1 distractor. If you can, put your phone in another room or away from your desk. If it must be with you, turn it over or put it in DND mode.  Don’t forget to turn off notifications on your smartwatch as well!

Organizers, organizers, organizers

I love a good desk organizer. The trick is finding ones that work for your particular needs and space. I’ve always had smaller desks, so it was hard to find organizers that didn’t take up a ton of space. 

The organizers I’ve tended to use a lot are pencil and pen holders, file holders, and paper organizers. Inside my desk drawers, I use smaller containers from the dollar store. They are cheap and can be easily arranged and rearranged as needed.

Let’s take a minute to talk about cords. I have several cords for my computer, lamp, and phone charger. They can start to overwhelm you if you let them. At a minimum, use a twist tie to bundle cords together. You can get really fancy with some zip ties or a cord storage box. Just get them out of your way!


I don’t care how much natural light your room gets, you need more. Save a spot on your desktop for a small reading light. (I like this one or this one!) When you’re reading a textbook late at night, your eyes will thank you.

Think Vertical

Take advantage of the space directly above your desk! When I taught, I attached a daily task sheet to the wall next to my desk. I stayed focused since I saw it all the time, but it didn’t take up valuable real estate on the desk itself.

Command hooks are great for desks as well. I used small ones to attach a clipboard to my desk. Keeping it hanging on the desk saved a lot of space on the desktop.

If you can drill into the wall (ie – not a rental or workplace), add a shelf or two above your desk. I love to put books and curriculum binders up there.


Organizing your desk doesn’t mean having a completely sterile desk. Keep a few small decorative items out to show your personality. I usually keep a framed family photo and a Rosie the Riveter bobblehead on my desk – both items make me smile. Many people keep a small plant on their desks, as well.

I hope these tips will help you organize your desk and more importantly, get stuff done. Happy organizing!

How do you organize your desk for maximum productivity? Let me know in the comments below!

Related Posts: Create an Effective Study Space, How to Build a Better Study Space at Ikea, How to Set Up Your Academic Planner for Success

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