Get your work done.

Following these steps will help you de-clutter your workspace and better identify what you need to do. It will also help you work through your list of things to do and complete each task to the best of your ability.


  1. Keep your workspace functional.
    Make sure you have a private workspace where everything relevant to your work is organized. This may include paper-holding trays (at least three), sufficient plain letter-size paper, a pen and pencil, Post-its, paper clips, a stapler and staples, Scotch tape, rubber bands, an automatic labeler, file folders, a calendar, a wastepaper basket, and your laptop. Include any other items you frequently use for work, such as planners or notebooks. You can also utilize a physical or digital filing system to organize all the necessary information you need at work. Clean this filing system out at least once a year—never let it be more than three-quarters full!

  2. Figure out what exactly that work is and throw out the rest.
    Start by looking around your physical environment—what’s out of place? Anything that isn’t where it belongs needs to be put in its place. If it’s trash, toss it out. When you get to your desk, you’ll probably be faced with a stack of mail, memos, reports, etc., as well as Post-it notes, collected business cards, receipts, meeting notes, and more. Figure out what you need to work on and put it in your in-tray. Toss out the rest.

  3. Write down anything else you need to do.
    You may still have pending tasks that are not in your in-tray—write each one down on a different sheet of paper and place it in your in-tray.

  4. Take action to complete your work.
    Process each task one at a time, going from the top of your in-tray to the bottom. Here, “processing” means identifying what you will need to do to complete the task, and dispatching it accordingly (i.e., delegating it to someone, setting a time to do it on your calendar, etc.).

  5. Categorize your tasks that do not need immediate actions.
    They could be trash (throw them out), items to incubate (write them down on a someday/maybe list or put a reminder on your calendar to refer back to them later), or reference items (label and file them).


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