Start with your own desk to reduce stress in the workplace. Mess just makes for stress. Do not fool yourself that an untidy desk is acceptable because you know where things are. Do not rely on new technology and the “paperless office” to rescue you.

Clearing out debris

Some people have a fear of throwing things away and of discovering that they have just disposed of the very thing they need. They therefore hoard every useless or out-of-date note. In most jobs, however, you can safely follow the “three-month rule”. Anything that has remained unread on your desk for three months is due for a move on to another destination – either to a file for long-term storage, or into the wastepaper basket. If you have not tidied your desk or done your filing for a long time, you need to be ruthless. Sort papers and notes into three distinct piles:

Discarding waste

It is less stressful to have an empty desk and a full wastepaper basket than the reverse. Putting unwanted paper in the bin can bring a real sense of achievement. Recycle paper if possible.

  • Action now – work to be completed today;

  • Action later – put the paper in your pending tray and complete the work within a week;

  • No action – file it or throw it away.

Points to remember

  • Papers, files, and books are best stored on shelves and not your desk, leaving more work space.

  • Old newspapers should be thrown away – news becomes stale fast.

  • Large pieces of paper are best for writing notes. Scraps get lost.

  • Records of phone calls are useless if you cannot remember when they occurred, so date notes.

Getting organized

Equip your desk with an in-tray, pending tray, filing tray, and out-tray – use a stacking system to save space. Make sure you sort through your pending tray and empty it once a week. Arrange your desk so that those things you use most often are most accessible. Position your computer so you do not have to twist around to use it. The monitor should be directly in front of you.

Improving surroundings

Stress is affected by other visual stimuli, such as the colour of our surroundings. Companies use colour to create moods – in shops, reception areas, and so on. Do the same for the space around your desk. The colour you select will depend on whether you prefer to be soothed or stimulated by your surroundings. Choose whichever shade is easiest for you to live and work with. Add colour to your desk with flowers, plants, and family photographs.

Enhancing your work space

Make your workspace as aesthetically pleasing as your home. After all, you probably spend more waking hours there than you do in your home.


Start each day stress-free by tidying your desk the night before.


Keep an executive toy to “play” with during breaks.


Try out different room plans before you settle into a new office.


When you move to a new work space, spend time thinking how to make it more pleasant.

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