Can’t Keep Up? 5 Ways to Simplify Your Work Space

Forget “getting ahead,” I just want to “keep up.” My life is hectic. I have too much to do and too little time. Sound familiar?

I realize I can’t solve all my problems with one magic trick, but I can streamline my life to make it easier to navigate.

Clutter in all shapes and sizes, like a badass-army in a science-fiction movie, continually threaten my space. Creative chaos can look artistic, but when I can’t find a pen, and I recently bought seven hundred, it ‘s literally impossible for me to write. As the mess builds, I spend more of my time frantically looking for things and less time writing.

desk organizer
No laughing:)

it’s not just about appearances.

Let me tell you a story. After not getting a promotion, I thought I deserved, and watching the supervisory position  go to a colleague who I then had to work under, I found myself locked in a really angry headspace. I felt like I had run full speed into a brick wall. I read somewhere that one of the best things you can do for yourself when things feel out of control is to take control of the things you can actually control:)  My editor would hate that line, but you know what I mean.

So… I  did some serious, retail-therapy at the local mall. Why not? The rest of my life felt mangled. I bought  colourful file folders (I deserved them after all), a wire thingy so some of them could sit on my desk (why not?), florescent paper for special projects (because it looked pretty) … I had fun. Check out the picture above. I actually bought one of those twirly things that can hold everything. The result? I cleaned and organized all the bits and pieces in my office area and along the way I started feeling better about the situation and about myself. I noticed the sun kept rising and before long I felt more whole again.

So it’s not just about appearances, it’s about taking control of your life (piece by piece) and feeling good about yourself. Today I thought I’d share my top five tips for organizing my space. I’ll show you mine and I’m hoping you’ll show me yours.

One – 12 Folders

I have one for every month, labelled clearly. They come in handy. For example, when I get a notice of a doctor’s appointment twelve months ahead, I slip it into the appropriate month and forget about it. I take it off my desk and out of my mind. The twelve folders are easily accessible in the top drawer of my filing cabinet.

Yes, I could just mark the appointment on my Google calendar, but some events, such as a specialist’s appointment, come with paperwork and it stores well in an old-fashioned file. Filing important papers by month has been an invaluable strategy for me.

Two – A Planner

Digital or physical? It doesn’t matter, as long as your planner allows you to organize your life. I’m a hybrid, a fence sitter, an indecisive soul who wants the best of both worlds. I use both. My phone is always by my side and my physical planner sits in front of my computer screen. I’d be lost without them.

Three – Organized Hardware

Is your screen hard to read? Is it too low, or too high? Fix it.IMG_20160305_070433

Are your cords linking machines catching your knees? Fix them. You can buy stuff to tie them together, or just use string. Make the space yours.

Do you have the hardware you need to do the jobs you need to get done? Plan to acquire them asap. Every artisan needs her tools.

Four – A Filing System

I have a filing cabinet and more files in a drawer. I need to have my junk (especially tax receipts) organized. When I feel overwhelmed, sorting through my clutter makes me feel like I’m fixing things. I thank myself at tax time.

Five – White Boards and Magnets

IMG_20160303_232453… are a writer’s best friend. I have a wrap around desk and three white boards are mounted on the wall to my left. The one at eye-level doubles as a storyboard when I’m drafting a story and a collect-all space for relevant notes such as ISBN numbers  when I’m in the publishing phaze. The one above it is divided into twelve sections labelled by month. I put sticky notes of events and goals into each month, so that I can see the year in front of me. The one beside it is covered in magnetic clips which keep my life organized. For example, one holds the schedules for my group blog

I like to be able to reach everything I need in seconds.

That’s it. That’s my five.

Can a Fancy Gold Pen Change Your Life?

I wish. The truth is that no single thing will change your life and give you a one way ticket to Nirvana, but there are things you can do that will make your life feel more your own, and less hectic. Don’t we all want to feel in control? Life is beautiful, but it’s also hard. Be kind to yourself, my friends.

shutterstock_104723360 (1)Okay, I showed you mine and now it’s your turn. Do you have an organizational tip to share? As always, I’d love to hear from you.


Cover-Jo-AnnCarson-CoverDanger-covert14Sign up for my newsletter to learn about my books and I will send you a free e-book of Covert Danger, the story of a single woman with a double life.

I just reached 30 reviews on Amazon for this book. A milestone for me. It wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t imagine thirty people reading my book. Exciting times.


Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

11 thoughts on “Can’t Keep Up? 5 Ways to Simplify Your Work Space”

  1. Jo-Ann, Your post is timely for me. I’m currently revamping how I file my paperwork. I’ve tried two different methods that haven’t worked…stacking letter trays and a case with accordion files inside. Now I’m looking at a 36 – 48 slot literature storage unit where every vendor, category, and regular contact have a spot for their own paperwork. I hate to junk up my office, but having all these piles of paper is even worse!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathy
      I can relate to the endless pieces of paper that need a home. Your 36-48 slot storage unit sounds mighty fine. I tried stating later trays too. Somehow the paper never made it to the right tray. I did use an accordion file for years just for a small number of files, but I’ve got too much stuff now.
      I really hope y our storage unit works for you and I’d love to hear how it goes.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting.
      Best Wishes


  2. I’ve started a new phase. I’m into ‘totes’. When I’m working on a manuscript, I often find ideas in the newspaper or in magazines, and I tear out the articles and pop them in the appropriate bin. It’s working today that is. Good tips. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jodie
      A tote-phase! Sounds good to me, especially for clippings. I wonder how many bins you have.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
      Best Wishes


  3. Hi, Jo-Ann. My most organized thing is my paper calendar notebook. On the full page calendar, each date has spaces for notes. Behind the full page calendar are larger places where I can write notes or put sticky notes. (Did I say how much I love sticky notes–oops, maybe that should be my most organized thing???) Anyway, when I travel, I take this calendar Bible with me as well as my seven pages of passwords. I haven’t found a solution for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vicki,
      I love sticky notes too! They were the best invention, ever. I totally understand how attached you are to your calendar. I don’t know what I would do if I lost my planner. Great tips!
      Passwords . . . Grrrr. Now that would be a good subject for a post.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your organization tips.
      Best Wishes


  4. A day planner would be one more thing to keep track of 😟 However I have my work schedule on my calendars a year in advance usually. Then I just have to work around it as best I can. I love picking up multi-coloured files and pens etc, but I suspect it would be one more thing for me to keep track of with limited success. You amaze me with your ability to organize things and keep multiple balls in the air.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pat
      (laughing) I know what you mean. I read organization posts all the time and I’m always saying, “That’s just more work!”
      It just has to be “the thing” that works for you. I see we share the joy of shopping for pretty things. Thank you for your compliment about juggling. It’s nice to know someone sees the balls in the air. I tend to focus on the ones that hit the floor. (still laughing)
      Best Wishes


  5. funny – I made a year calendar where the months were in verticle columns. couldn’t use it. three months later hardly anything was on it. so I took an hour and drew up traditional month calendars and it all suddenly made so much sense, So much for revolutionary (vertical calendars) ideas.
    My current favourite organizational too though is the garbage can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Judy
      That is interesting. It’s like our heads are wired into certain patterns.
      I cracked up on your line about the garbage can. It is the best.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
      Best Wishes


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