It’s not unusual to spend half your waking hours at your workspace. But if your desk area is chaotic and cluttered, then this can negatively impact your efficiency and creativity. It’s difficult to complete a task effectively if you can’t quickly access the tools and resources you need.
Physical clutter has an adverse effect on your ability to concentrate and process information. Neuroscientists at Princeton University analysed subjects’ performance in organised and disorganised environments, and discovered that clutter competes for your attention, resulting in performance degradation and higher stress levels.
That’s why it’s essential to declutter your workspace. A tidy and organised desk boosts your productivity, improves your time management, and creates a less stressful working environment. So follow these six simple steps to create a more harmonious space in which to work.
Plan the layout
Before setting up your desk, sketch its outline on a sheet of paper. Now go through the motions of your normal workday. Consider how and when items are used. Whether you’re right handed or left-handed may influence the location of your computer and mouse. You might discover that some items don’t need to be on your desk at all. A nearby drawer may be preferable. By completing a time and motion study, you can ensure everything is within easy reach, thus minimising wasteful movements.
Set aside one section of your desk for bulky items, and another section for your workspace. The layout may depend on whether you’re left or right-handed. You might place your phone, computer and printer on the left-hand side, and keep the other side clear for paperwork.
Banish the clutter
Remove unnecessary items from your desk. They waste space, get in your way, and slow you down. And the slower you work, the more paperwork builds up, consuming even more desk space. The best way out of this vicious cycle is to remove items as soon as they’re no longer needed.
Put items away once you’ve used them. Use a drawer caddy to store paperclips, bulldog clips and rubber bands in designated compartments. Assign an in/out wing. Designate one side of your desk for incoming projects to be addressed, and the other side for completed and outgoing items. This establishes a directional flow, helps to organise your work, and gives you a sense of accomplishment as you complete tasks.
Don't become attached
Clutter only exists because our brain leads us to believe everything’s important. Look through your stuff and ask yourself if the item still has a purpose. Be ruthless. Discard items that are no longer relevant or useful, and file away papers that you might need at a later date.
Declutter regularly. Once you’ve become organised, stick with the program and don’t lapse back into bad habits. Tidy your desk at the end of each day, and write your ‘To Do’ list for the following day. Maintain an uncluttered work area by scheduling a weekly ten-minute clean up into your diary.
And finally, clutter isn’t just physical. Unnecessary files on your computer’s desktop, constant SMS messages, alerts from Facebook and Twitter, and anything pops up on your PC or smartphone can compete for your attention. This digital clutter is equally capable of impairing your focus on the task at hand.