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Organizing Work Space

Organizing Work Space

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Published by: mariaat on Nov 19, 2009
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08/31/2010

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©David Allen Company 1998, 2008. All rights reserved. www.DavidAllenGTD.com
page 1
DavidAllen
Organizing Your Workspace
We oten get questions about personal work areas: “What is the best way to organize a desk space, bookshelves,and my whole oce? What special gadgets or tools can help me organize the work most eciently? How otenshould I clean and organize it – assuming that it doesn’t stay neat as soon as it’s cleaned?”I will share my thoughts about gear and workspace logistics, but keep in mind that in order to understand howit all ts together and to make this work, you should be amiliar with my documents on the Workfow Diagram,General Reerence Filing, the Tickler File, and the Weekly Review. All o these are available on this website.The workspace should unction like a cockpit – all the controls easily accessible as required, allowing ormaximum ocus on the work at hand, quick over-viewing o work to be done, and easy ad hoc processing o allorms o input (rom email, paper mail, phone, and live conversation).
BASIC HARDWARE
Here’s a basic toolkit:1. In-basket (top basket)2. Work-in-progress basket3. Standing wire racks or le olders (work-in-progress support)4. Out-basket5. Computer6. Printer (have one right at hand – it’ll save you hours!)7. Clock 8. Phone/answering machine9. Capture/communication tools – writing pad, stapler, tape; desk tray and holders or pens, post-its, paperclips, scissors, stamps10. Labeller (or les)11. New le olders (lots, at hand!)12. Filing cabinets (within reach)13. Telephone/address database14. Calendar15. Personal supplies (best in at-hand drawers): pharmaceuticals, rells or writing instruments, batteries,business cards, stationery, envelopes, headphones, blank CDs, small tools, and the like.
 
©David Allen Company 1998, 2008. All rights reserved. www.DavidAllenGTD.com
page 2
DavidAllen
WORKSPACE FUNCTIONALITY
Two types o materials belong in your workspace, and it’s very productive to sort them accordingly:1. What belongs there permanently2. What is in transit and incompleteMost people have vague (i any) physical and visible distinctions between these two very dierent categories intheir environment – what has action required and what doesn’t, because it belongs there. In our workfow coachingwith executives, the rst activity we have them do is sort out what stays where it is and what still needs attention.Oten, too, there are many things that should be purged OUT o the environment. Sometimes a plethora ooutdated “stu” can accumulate, clogging up drawers and nooks and crannies o desk real estate.
Permanent Stu
The only items that belong permanently in your workspace are: supplies, reerence material, decoration, andequipment. Anything else goes rst in the in-basket to be processed and then is either tossed, tickled, led orcoded into your action-reminder system.“Supplies” – everything you need, and use up, on a regular basis – writing and printer paper, stamps, paper clips,tissues, ink, etc.“Reerence material” – your les, ring binders, directories, manuals, lists o codes, etc.“Decoration” – wall décor, art, plants, amily pictures, nostalgia, cartoons, etc.“Equipment” – urniture, phones, computers, PDAs, printers, stapler, letter opener, pens, chargers, projectors,briecases, etc.
Keep It Current
It’s oten a worthy exercise to exorcise the supplies, reerence material, decoration and equipment that reallyaren’t any longer. Many things that start out as unctional in those categories become outdated, useless, ormisplaced simply by the passage o time. It’s good to regularly purge and reorganize the desk, drawers, shelves,countertops, and les. It’s very easy to go unconscious to stu just because it’s there, undermining the senseo active utility in your environment. I you have things still around that you’re not sure i you might need again(such as miscellaneous electronic accessories), consider putting them urther away rom you in plastic storagebins labelled “Misc Gear,” which you can then reevaluate later as to its relevance.
 
©David Allen Company 1998, 2008. All rights reserved. www.DavidAllenGTD.com
page 3
DavidAllen
Filing Styling
It is important to pay attention to the logistics o ling in your oce area because, besides urniture, it requires themost space and physical movement to execute. General reerence ling (also including support les or projectsin progress) should be within easy reach. You should eliminate any resistance to ling a single piece o paperout o the in-basket, i it’s potentially useul inormation. (See my article on General Reerence Filing.) I you haveinherited your oce and its urniture and its layout, you may be the victim o aesthetic elegance and unctionalunconsciousness. Standard corporate issue are side-opening ling cabinets that require hanging les, whicharen’t nearly as easy to use as the ront-opening types with slider blocks that hold les upright. Most peopleneed our ull le drawers or their own personal general reerence ling, i they have an easy enough system touse or all the miscellaneous paper-based reerence material that could be keep-worthy. Any reerence materialthat can stand up by itsel goes on your shelves, like books, thick manuals and binders (appropriately labelled). Anything else should live in its own le alphabetically in your ling cabinets.
In Transit and Incomplete Stu
The movable stu in the work area consists o:1. Input to be processed2. Action reminders
Input Processing
Workspace should be organized to make it easy to process input at random times (email, voice mail, paper mail,etc.) The in-basket and your email should all be easily process-able while you’re on hold on a conerence call,or waiting or someone to walk into your oce. So not only the phone and the computer, but also the in-basketshould be at hand’s reach. The in-basket can and should hold everything that is not yet organized, so there is noneed to have a “messy desk”. Sure, I spread my stu out to work on a project or with a client or or a meeting,but when I want to ocus on something else, I need to re-gather it all and either re-le it as appropriate or toss itinto “in” until I can get to it again. O course a legal pad or some orm o easy note-taking device should alwaysbe right at hand in case the phone rings or I want to check voice mail, or someone pops into the oce and letsme know something that I might want to do something with later on.
 Action Reminding
The action-reminder tools in a workspace consist o (1) calendar, (2) reminders o as-soon-as-I-can-get-to-itactions, and (3) overviews o projects and longer-horizon outcomes. These can be in whatever hardware you

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