There have been many articles written about how technology and automation can help individuals or organisations to increase work productivity. But one of the most effective methods of doing so actually involves no machinery, at all. And it’s one of the easiest things that you can do: decluttering your desk, and rationalising your work space.
Here are some ideas and recommendations on doing just that.
Different Strokes For Different Folks
Of course, clutter and organisation mean different things to different people – and in terms of increasing productivity and focus at work, different personality types may thrive in different environments.
People in the so-called “creative” professions – artists, photographers, designers, architects, writers – may appreciate a certain amount of disorganisation in their work spaces. The objects we acquire and retain have associations for us – memories and emotional responses that may be triggered by the sight or absence of them.
For creatives, these kinds of stimuli can spark new ideas. So it’s often helpful to be surrounded by objects, images, and sounds that may contribute positively to the task at hand.
But for those in the more “rational-thinking” professions, a chaotic and over-populated workspace may have the opposite effect, and detract from rather than increase work productivity.
And even for those who benefit from a degree of messiness in their working environment, there’s a fine line to maintain between inspiring disorganisation and chaos.
How Others See It
As a professional, the condition of your working environment doesn’t only influence your productivity at work and increase job satisfaction – it creates an impression on the people you have to deal with on a day to day basis.
From fellow workers to visiting clients, the message you convey by having a cluttered and disorganised desk or office has an impact on how easy it is that they find you to work with – and how competent and professional they perceive you to be.
Time For A Clean Up?
As a simple test, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I find it easy to meet essential deadlines for my work?
- Do I find it easy to complete my projects – or do I always seem to be juggling several tasks, without resolution on any of them?
- Do distractions and mess in my working environment keep pulling my attention away from the task at hand?
If you’ve answered “Yes” to one or more of the above, it could be time to rationalise your working environment, and increase work productivity, as a result.
Keeping What Works
Knowing what’s essential to increase your work productivity and peace of mind is the first step.
Think about your successful endeavours of the past, and identify the objects and elements of your desk and office environment that helped you to achieve these successes. A certain set of pens, office supplies, documents, or software: these would be the ingredients contributing to your ideal working state – and the items you’ll need to keep, when re-organising your work space.
Slinging Out What Doesn’t
Anything that doesn’t contribute to your ideal mind-set and productive work, can go.
Removal of these items can be a gradual and reversible process. You might begin by moving non-essential or distracting items out of sight to your desk drawers, or consigning them to storage bins, remote shelves, or closets. Work without them for a while, and gauge your level of success. Anything crucial that you may have inadvertently shelved can always be rotated back into service.
Dealing With Technology
If you’re working in a traditional networked corporate environment, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the habitual nightmare array of cables connecting desktop systems, servers, UPS units, routers, printers, and other hardware. These may contribute as much as your personal mess, to the cluttering up of work space.
Even if you’re operating from a personal set-up with a laptop or tablet, you may still have the occasional need to use a printer, scanner, or other peripheral hardware – with the associated desk and office space requirements for cabling and the devices themselves. To eliminate clutter, you should do as their name suggests, and keep these peripheral devices on the periphery using shelves, side tables, and the like.
Corporate environments will benefit from structured cabling systems, which organise logical routes and centralised connectors for office hardware. For home or personal office systems, simple measures like clustering related sets of cables into cut-off sections of plastic piping or stapling them to a peg board can make a huge difference.
Telecommunications equipment like desktop phones and fax machines (who uses those, anyway?) can be rationalised too, in this age of the mobile. A virtual phone system such as that offered by the Swytch network can assign registered business telephone numbers to your personal mobile phone, eliminating the need to buy office telephony hardware. And the cell phone you can just stick in your pocket, out of sight.
Beyond The Physical Desk
The digital realm also enables us to extend our working environment beyond the physical office or desk, in the form of online file storage, email and communications accounts, or entire virtual desktops for software and data handling. It’s a good idea to declutter these virtual spaces, too.
The mobile apps associated with a virtual phone system like Swytch can help you automatically create a logical distinction between personal and business accounts and related files, including Inboxes and voicemail.
Do regular clean-ups of the files and folders on your personal hardware and in your various accounts (email, cloud storage, etc.). Create logical categories to organise your data for easy retrieval and use. And cut out the non-essential software – including all those nifty mobile apps you downloaded, but never use.
Optimising Your Time
Once you’ve got into the habit of organising your work spaces, decluttering your physical and virtual desks can be reduced to a matter of minutes per day. This will create valuable time, which may be spent on more important issues. And the resulting clarity and neatness of your work environment will promote peace of mind, and greatly increase work productivity.