What happens to you when your teacher desk/workspace is cluttered and disorganized? Chaos? Time wasted trying to find things? Duplication of efforts? (Finding a pile of copies you made last week that you just re-copied) Frustration? Aggravation? Here are my tips for organizing your teacher desk / workspace.
Having an organized workspace takes three easy steps. First, you have to reflect on how you need your workspace to function. Second, you have to be intentional about your workspace. These two steps will help you create a workspace that works. And finally, you have to maintain it daily.
The Function of Your Teacher Desk Workspace
Before you do anything for organizing your teacher desk/workspace, think about what you want to accomplish there. Follow this exercise:
- Plan. Take a blank piece of paper and fold it in half and in half again so you have four boxes. You can even fold it one more time to make 8 boxes if you wish (or use this Worksheet).
- Brainstorm. Brainstorm a list of activities you will do at your teacher desk/workspace (grading/student feedback, making phone calls home, lesson planning, housing/organizing materials for the days lessons, lesson planning, emails/computer work, etc.). Write each activity at the top of it’s own box on your piece of paper and underline it (see example on worksheet).
- List. Now underneath the label for each box, brainstorm all the supplies you will need to do that task. For example, if you wrote grading/student feedback at the top, you’d probably write a list like this underneath: colored pens, sticky notes, stamps, stickers, grade-book, EZ-grader, etc.
- Finish. Continue until you’ve brainstormed all of the things necessary to accomplish your tasks.
Intentionally Organizing Your Teacher Desk Workspace
Now that you’ve determined the function of your teacher desk/workspace, and you’ve brainstorm the tools you need, now it’s time to organize them intentionally so that the space can work for you!!
- Collect all the supplies on your list into one area. *Note, if you already have a teacher desk/workspace that you are re-organizing, take everything out. That’s right. First, take it all out and de-clutter (move or throw away) the things that aren’t on your necessities list. This is a great opportunity to wipe out the drawers and clean up the desk surface and drawers.
- De-clutter. Before you put things back in the same places they’ve always been, think about how you’d like the desk/area to function for you. I suggest decluttering or keeping as much off the work surface as possible. Keeping the counter clear will actually help the entire space to feel more organized and less cluttered. And you will be less likely to clutter it up!! (Believe me! It’s true – try it!!) Take knick-knacks home or store them on a bookshelf behind the desk area. Don’t clutter the surface with things that aren’t necessary.
- Put the items that you will use most within arms reach. If you listed pens and sticky notes several times on your list, then make sure the pens and sticky notes are close and accessible. For example, these items may be good ones to keep on the desk surface so you can access them quickly and easily. If your grade-book or teacher record-book is noted several times, you may want to put that in a basket or drawer within arms reach.
- Follow the 10 Second Rule. Store other items from your list close – in places that will take you less that 10 seconds to grab. Make sure all of your essentials are very easy to access. You likely won’t need your entire file cabinet’s contents every day. So don’t be afraid to move it out of your work area. However, you may want a small filing system to keep working/active files nearby (in a drawer or small file system on your desk).
- Label everything. Be sure everything has a place and if necessary, label it!! Labeling things helps you remember the systems you have designed so that you can spend less brainpower on remembering where things are or where to put things – and keep focused on the important things!
These two main ideas will help you get the most out of your teacher desk/workspace so that you can save time and energy! There are a ton of other great ideas on organizing your workspace on these blogs:
- The Clutter-Free Classroom
- Alejandra.TV (Check out her video on organizing your desk on a budget)
- And of course – Pinterest (I’ve pinned a bunch to my pinterest board here)
Maintain Your Workspace Daily
Now here is the kicker for making your teacher desk/workspace work for you! Maintain it!
At the beginning of the year, my sister, mom and I embarked on a mission to organize and streamline our households with a few blog and YouTube inspirations. One that my sister found is Alejandra.tv. Alejandra Costello is an organization evangelist – and as a fellow organizing geek, I love it!! But what’s even better is how Alejandra makes organizing easy for anyone! One of her tips from her free introductory video series is for helping you to do a few quick things before bed that will help you feel better in the morning (picking things up, doing your dishes, etc.). They are simple, and when you are committed to them, it’s amazing how different your mornings will feel!
One of her tips is to clean up your bathroom and kitchen before going to bed. It takes 5 minutes usually (or less) to clean each, but since they are the two places where you spend time in the morning, you will feel a huge relief when you wake up and have a clean bathroom and kitchen to head to.
Well, when it comes to the classroom, our teacher desk/workspace is the same. It’s usually the first place you walk to when you come in to your classroom in the morning. You walk over and set your things down (grading you did last night, your lunch box, purse, etc.) In fact, how your desk/workspace is left from one day to the next can set up a whole train of thinking that’s either positive or negative. Consider these scenarios:
- Scenario A (Disorganized Desk/Workspace): You come in and set your things down. Immediately you think, “Ugh – look at this mess. There is grading I didn’t get to, those forms I still need to turn in, and the message from Johnny’s mom that I need to return. I don’t have time for these right now. I guess I’ll have to do them afterschool. Wow – it’s not even 8am and I already feel behind.”
- Scenario B (Organized Desk/Workspace): You come in and set your things down. Immediately you think, “Okay – let’s think about what’s going on today. We’ve got X, Y, and Z, on the schedule and here are all the copies and materials I need for the day. Oh yeah, I need to call Johnny’s mom back. I can do that at lunch. I’ll put the note in my lunchbag to remind myself. Let’s tackle some emails and write some notes home before this day gets going.”
Which would you prefer?! When you start your thought process as in Scenario A with the disorganized desk, your brain is trying to decipher the most important thing you need to do and it gets overwhelmed easily which likely means you’ll be snappy and negative.
On the contrary, starting your day with an organized workspace sets a tone of empowerment and confidence. You can handle it! I don’t know about you – but it’s a no-brainer which scenario will set me up to be the best teacher I can be! So – here’s what you do –
Before you go home for the day:
- Pack up all the things you’ll need at home. If you plan to do grading or prep at home, place those items in your take-home bag. I really like using the organized utility tote from ThirtyOne bags. It holds a file bin perfectly and has storage pockets for pens and sticky notes. Check this example out.
- Organize everything for the next school day. Having your handouts and materials already set out and ready to go before you leave helps you mentally prepare for the next day so in the morning you can fry those bigger fish you need to get to. Even do this on a Friday for the next Monday. You’ll be amazed at how much more peaceful your nights/weekends are! Look at this example from Clutter-Free Classroom.
- De-clutter your workspace. Yep – that’s right! Every day you should de-clutter your space and put things back where they belong. If you do it everyday, I promise it will take you less than 3 minutes. And it’s 3 minutes that will be worth the investment because you won’t want to take that 3 minutes the next morning!
- Wipe the desk surface with a clorox wipe. Seriously – your desk/workspace can get nasty in just one day. Protect yourself from illness and grime by stashing a container of clorox wipes in your drawer and using one at the end of the day to wipe down your desk (and keyboard/mouse). The next day you’ll come in to a sparkling, clean, organized space! Trust me, you’ll thank me!!
Organizing your teacher desk / workspace is not rocket-science. And there are tons of resources and ideas out there online to give you inspiration. But you just have to do it!! If you do nothing else, at least do the “before-you-go-home” routine listed above. That alone will set you up for success each day and start you on a positive and empowering note.
You can do this! Let me know how it goes for you!
~Alison, A Teacher’s Best Friend