A few days ago I was getting ready to go home after a long day in the office when it dawned on me that I had been at my desk all day. Yes, I had got up to make the odd cup of tea or make a quick trip to the bathroom, but I hadn’t been out for lunch or in any meetings that day so effectively I had been sitting in my chair at my desk for a good 8 hours. Help desk! I think this tale might be familiar to a lot of assistants who seem to spend more time at their office than at their home! As we do spend large periods at our desk, we should make sure that we have it organised in such a way that we know where everything is. Below are a few tips on how to make your desk more efficient:

Essential stationery

There are only so many things we can keep on our desk before it starts to look cluttered but we do use certain items of stationery on a frequent basis, so we do need to have them to hand. If you have a pedestal under your desk, I would highly recommend these objects are locked away from those with sticky fingers! I recommend having the following on or in your desk at all times:

Pens and pencils – I prefer retractable pencils to write notes than a pen. I keep one good pen, preferably a fountain pen, for signing documents and a red pen for ticking things off my to-do list.

Highlighter pen – I don’t seem to use these much anymore but worth keeping handy

Eraser – for correcting mistakes

Stapler and staples – Always always get the best stapler your company can afford and use the same brand staples as the stapler. I know this sounds silly but how frustrating is it when you can’t staple a few bits of paper together… trust me it will save you so much time having a decent stapler!

Hole-punch – again one to be stashed away in a locked drawer! Get a good, industrial sized hole-punch if you can.

Scissors – and another one for the locked drawer. I often wonder if scissors sprout legs during the night and make a run for it!

Sellotape (or sticky back plastic!) – you might not need tape every day but when you do you won’t be able to find any. If you have a drawer keep this in there rather than on your desk.

Letter opener – saves time and your fingers from getting paper cuts.

Internal envelops – I go through dozens of these a week. Always handy to have on your desk

Ruler – this is a multiple use piece of stationery. It can be used to help reading data, drawing a straight line, measuring something and keeping naughty colleagues in check!

Notebooks – I have one hardback A4 notebook for meetings and one A5 scrapbook for scribbles, doodles and messy thoughts.

Post-it notes and flags – I always buy the largest post-it notes in a variety of colours as I often write notes to myself and need the extra room! I use the small post-it index flags all the time as well.   

Calendar – For quick reference, I have a one sheet per day calendar block on my desk. There is also something very satisfying in pulling each day off and chucking it in the bin!

Files – see my previous blog on my filing system

Calculator – I still use a calculator most days despite knowing how to use formulas in Excel!

Office Equipment

I’m a big advocate of assistants having their office equipment such as a photocopier, printer and shredder. We deal with confidential material all day, and it can be awkward sharing equipment with other members of staff. In addition to that as part of our role, we are always at one piece of equipment or the other, and it is a massive time saver if for example, the printer is near our desk. The phone should be on the desk as near to your keyboard and computer screen as possible. I once made the mistake of having my phone at one end of my desk to my computer screen, so I had plenty of room around me, but I couldn’t look anything up while I was on the phone. I wasn’t that silly for long!

Other bits and bobs

Here are a few other random but essential objects I keep on my desk:

A list of colleague’s phone numbers including my Director’s just in case I ever forget the extension when I am transferring a call

My iPhone charger which is on my desk but tucked away out of sight

Recent copies of the company’s literature. This is kept neatly in an upright plastic magazine rack, and I cull out of date information every few months.

When organising your desk, I would spend a bit of time thinking about the tasks that you perform every day and the equipment you need to complete the work. It is vital that we have everything to hand so that we can start work immediately. I also think it is worth remembering that as you progress in your role, the tasks will change so do have a review of how you use your desk and change it around if you need to.