If we’re being honest, clutter is a real time killer. In fact, a study has shown that workers lose up to two hours a week looking for lost documents, and that clutter directly influences productivity.
Now that a vast portion of the workforce is working from home, productivity has come under the spotlight in a whole new way. Creating a clutter-free workspace is the key to staying on track, managing your time, and being a responsible member of the workforce.
The Problem With Clutter
Clutter is distracting and stressful if you’re trying to work or be productive in a messy environment. This isn’t just because you struggle to find the documents or equipment that you need. The feeling of things encroaching on your space can make you feel cramped and irritated, too.
Another problem with clutter is that it can lead to procrastination. You don’t want to spend time in a cluttered space, so you don’t do the work you need to do. Additionally, you spend time trying to sort out the clutter instead of focusing on your work requirements.
Clutter is a sign that you aren’t in control of your space. This is dangerous if it’s a workspace, as this is an area where control or feelings of control are crucial. It’s also dangerous for clutter to invade a space that you use for relaxing. It’s hard to unwind when an area needs cleaning or sorting out.
The good news is, you can declutter your way to productivity. All you need to do is take the first few steps.
- Create A Usable Filing System
Important paperwork, notes from meetings, to-do lists and reminders can all take up space in a work environment and make it messy. You need to have a filing system for dealing with these various bits of paper. But most importantly, you need one that you will actually use. There’s no point in spending time and money on files or paper trays you won’t use correctly.
When setting up a filing system, think about how you work and how you like to get to your various papers during the day. From there, plan a realistic system that you know you can use and will help your work life. Then, make a conscious effort to stick to the system—refining it as you go—so that you don’t end up with piles and piles of papers everywhere.
- Get Rid Of Excess Items
Too often, we hang on to things that we don’t really need. This can be because of sentimental reasons or simply because we aren’t sure what to do with them. What you need to do is take an honest look at items in your space that are causing clutter or distractions.
This doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of these items completely. But you need to get them out of the way of your productivity. You can move them into another space that’s more suitable if the items mean something to you. Otherwise, it might be best to throw them away, put them in recycling, or donate them to charity.
- Streamline Your Virtual Space
Clutter doesn’t just take the form of physical items. In today’s world, your virtual, online, or tech life can get cluttered to the point of distraction. If you find you aren’t being a very productive employee, it’s time to take a good look at what digital elements are getting in the way.
This could be a case of having too many apps sending you notifications all day on your smartphone, computer, or smartwatch. Try to minimize the notifications you get during working hours so that you only receive the ones that are necessary. The rest, you can check during breaks, or when you’re done working. If necessary, log out of all your social media accounts and use a different browser for work. This reduces the temptation to quickly check Facebook or see what Tweets are new.
It’s important to look at your virtual filing system too. If you’re the type of person who documents or files to your desktop, you may need to come up with a new system. Having a huge number of files on your desktop can be distracting and overwhelming. It also means you could end up losing work, which is stressful in itself.
- Clear Out Your Calendar
Our lives can easily become cluttered by having too many engagements. It can be hard to turn down events or even a simple coffee with a colleague when, technically, you have nothing else on. However, planning too many events in a week can make your life complicated. You need to have breathing room between work and socializing, and some time to just sit and be yourself.
Try to set yourself limits on how many meetings and social events you schedule into one week. Make sure you schedule in some down time, too. This is all part of time management. Busy schedules affect every facet of life, from sleep to work. If you clean up your calendar, you won’t feel as tired, and this will boost your productivity levels.
- Plan For The Future
When our lives become cluttered, it’s hard to see outside of what’s right in front of us. However, by taking a step outside of the here and now, you can start to see your way out of the clutter. It’s all about having one eye on the future.
Studies show that around 33% of people working in the US haven’t thought about their lives past their current situation and into retirement. Change that by being proactive and making plans. In doing so, you’ll reduce the stress that clutter-induced procrastination causes.
- Start At The End Of The Day Before
Once you’ve cleared up the clutter, it’s time to set rules on how you will stick to this new lifestyle.
One of the best steps you can take is to dedicate five minutes at the end of every day to getting yourself ready for tomorrow. Set out your tasks for the following day, and pack away any paperwork or items you were using today, but won’t need tomorrow. Now, you can switch into relaxation mode, knowing that the start of the next day won’t feel chaotic and pressured.
Clutter has a direct influence on productivity. If you can declutter your physical, mental, and online space and create ground rules you can stick to, your productivity levels should automatically improve.