If your computer is cluttered with disorganized files and unnecessary apps, it's tough to get any work done. Not only will you find it harder to find the content you need when you need it, but you'll also feel additional stress, and may also be more easily distracted.

Still, most people find it challenging to organize their computer desktop in a meaningful, intuitive way.

You can start by acknowledging the main challenges that get in the way of an organized desktop:

  • Choosing a standard. If you don't have an idea for how to organize your files, you'll never get started. The analysis paralysis on deciding on an organizational method can kill some efforts before they even begin.
  • Clearing the clutter. Clutter has a powerful effect on your stress and emotional well-being, but it's hard to delete files if you think there's a chance you'll use them again in the future. It's very easy for a computer to become cluttered with unnecessary items.
  • Finding the time. It's almost impossible to automate the process of organizing your desktop, which means you'll need to make time to do it manually--time many workers feel they don't have.
  • Staying consistent. Once you decide on an organizational standard, you'll need to consistently apply that standard in the future. This is where most people fail.

Now let's focus on strategies you can use to get--and stay--organized:

1. Consolidate your most important apps.

First, take inventory of the apps that are most important for your position. You might have three or four that you use on a daily basis, or a subscription suite of software programs that provide you with most of the functionality you need. For example, you might be able to merge functions from multiple apps with a single, comprehensive solution, or use a single suite of apps to replace the hodgepodge collection you accumulated over time.

2. Delete or tuck away what you don't use at least weekly.

Next, start decluttering whatever you can. If you can't remember the last time you used an app, uninstall it. If you can't imagine a scenario for which you'll need a specific file, delete it. If it seems like it might be unnecessary but you're struggling with the decision, create a folder where you can store these rarely accessed files and apps--and then tuck that folder out of the way.

3. Decide on a file-naming convention.

Next, decide on a naming convention for your files that you can use consistently. For example, you might code each file with the date, so they're listed in chronological order, and then include the name of the client each file pertains to, so you can quickly search by client. Start renaming any files that don't already adhere to this convention, and make notes so you can use it consistently in the future.

4. Create a system of folders and subfolders.

Try to keep every file on your computer or in your cloud storage account in a strictly organized system of folders and subfolders. You should have a handful of "main" folders (like Documents, Artwork, or Templates), and several subfolders within those main folders based on clients or the specific types of files contained within. There may be some files that belong in multiple categories; for these, you'll need to make an individual judgment call. Remember, you can always run a search if there's something you can't find.

5. Customize your background.

If you want your desktop to be even more intuitively organized, consider creating a custom background, divided into clear sections. For example, you might designate the left side of your screen for your "most used apps" and the middle for "frequently accessed files."

6. Take the extra time to sort new content.

It's tempting to dump new files onto your desktop haphazardly when you're in a rush, but if you want to stay organized, you'll need to commit to making the time to keep all new files and apps in the proper order (and with the proper naming conventions). It takes a few minutes at most, so it shouldn't be much of a commitment.

7. Schedule a recurring cleaning session.

As long as your calendar isn't already packed with reminders and to-dos, schedule a recurring session to clean your desktop to keep it from overflowing. Scheduling something once a week, or even once a month, can prevent your desktop from becoming cluttered again.

Once your desktop is sufficiently organized, you'll find it much easier to find what you're looking for, you'll feel revitalized, and you might even find yourself in a better mood throughout the workday. It might take an investment of time to get organized, but the end results are worth it.