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How to organize—and disorganize—a drawer

Many professionals depend on flawless organization for their success: paramedics, photographers, mechanics who go into the field. These folks have to be able to find just what they need without looking— even in the dark, often in chaotic, time-critical conditions. Why shouldn't professionals who work at desks much of the time have the same advantages of fail-safe organization?

Dedicate one drawerHere's the key: organize for retrieval rather than storage.
Dedicate one drawer for your most frequently needed tools, then determine what those tools are and precisely where you want to put them.

Arrange your deskscape in a way that makes sense to you and that you find useful. You'll then know just where to reach for tools, business cards, etc. Then try to use the same system at work and at your home office.

Follow your own guidance like an obedient soldier.
Adjust as necessary... but discipline is the watchword. Lo and behold, when you want your favorite pen or highlighter or staple remover, it will be there for you. The thousands of seconds you'll save can amount to days even weeks over the years.

An analogy behind the wheel of a car.
As one way to bring this idea home: think about getting into a rental car. You don't have to give a second thought to where the gears and pedals are because all cars are now standardized for safety and ease of use. (This wasn't the case 50 years ago!) Today, no matter if you're at Hertz, Avis, or Rent-a-Wreck, and whether you've rented a limo or sports car, you just sit down, adjust the seat and mirrors, and drive. Standardization is one of the things that can make life easier. Make sure you take advantage of your own forms of standardization in your offices. Taking care of the little things can free your mind to dwell on the big things.

Don't go overboard.
It's good to maintain at least one junk drawer—usually a big one at the bottom, where you are free to put things without a thought to organization. Such a catch-all will help you clean your desk and free your mind.

Organize hard in one contained place and be totally messy in another; it's one secret for success.