Don’t let a disorganized workspace lower your productivity.
It has been scientifically proven that clutter has a negative impact on our ability to concentrate and stay on top of our tasks. Why is that? The answer is pretty simple: All things around us have some sort of sentimental or personal history. They remind us of past situations and can often carry emotional baggage. An innocent holiday picture can take us down memory lane and instead of working on current sales figures, we drift away to holiday paradise. It’s true that some objects have the power to steal our focus more than the others. Sometimes even empty coffee mugs may turn into serious productivity blockers.
But does clutter influence your productivity? Let’s examine how clutter affects us, and how to keep it from being a distraction.
Survey what you accumulate
In order to effectively tackle your desk clutter, you need to get a sense of what you’ve got, and what you actually need to get your job done. Throughout the day, each of us collects multiple items – pens, paper, takeout boxes, mail – that crave our subconscious attention. In order to have a work-friendly desk, think carefully about what is indispensable for the most effective performance, then get rid of all the rest.
Cut down on things
If you don’t really trust the clutter theory, we strongly encourage you to test it on yourself. It’s time to get organized, so roll up your sleeves and get cracking! The ‘out of sight, out of mind’ attitude works best if you want to declutter your desk and get a healthy boost of productive energy. First, clear out your desk and cabinets, get rid of unsorted Post-its, paid bills and irrelevant notes, hide messy cords and office supplies. In place of all that mess, put a neat agenda or a pinboard to keep your schedule handy. Also, don’t forget about a plant. Choose the kind which is particularly easy to grow, like Sansevieria, Ficus, or Philodendron. Done? Now you can evaluate what kind of work environment suits you the most.
Be aware of the non-physical clutter
Clutter can creep up in many forms and sizes. We’ve already mentioned the most common type, the physical clutter. Now it’s time for the often overlooked type – non-physical clutter. By that, I mean digital files, odd folders on your desktop, disorganized worksheets and disturbing pop-up notifications. In the digital era, we have come to terms with such distractions, but little do we know they can divert our focus to less important things and decrease our productivity the same way the physical clutter does. Be sure to regularly clean your computer desktop so it doesn’t distract you while you’re working.
Keep the creative clutter
Now it’s time for some positive news for all the “messy” workers. An untidy desk is not always a sign of disorganization. In many professions, clutter is inevitable and often proves vital for creativity. I admit – it’s hard to hit the sweet spot between a mess and innovative design. In order to find the right balance, choose objects which won’t overstimulate you, but at the same time will provoke original thoughts. Be careful though, as there is a very thin line between stimulation and distraction.
As it turns out, clutter isn’t always the worst thing. It can be both beneficial and disruptive for our productivity. But we all know it only takes one distraction to lose focus. Empty coffee mugs, chocolate bars, dozens of sticky notes and old magazines – they all compete for our attention. Just surround yourself with the items that work best for you and find the balance between creative order and messy dumping ground.