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How Office Clutter Causes Distraction and Slows You Down

How Office Clutter Causes Distraction and Slows You Down

A messy or disorganized desk can quickly become a handicap if you have too many projects to deal with at one time. Worse, a messy desk can become a good excuse to procrastinate.

Why is That Still in Your Way?

While many of us work digitally, there are still plenty of jobs where projects come to you on paper. If you really need to refer back to something, having it within reach is fine, but having it in the way takes away from any use you may get from it. If you’re struggling to get moving forward on a project, clear your desk so you can focus your mind.

How Are Your Storage Habits Damaging Your Work Habits?

If your desktop is small, you may be tempted to go vertical with your reference materials. A binder on the shelf or a list on a bulletin board is more helpful than a piece of paper you have to hunt for.

Managing Information and Maintaining Inspiration

If you have a favorite quote that speaks to you when your work life gets crazy, put it somewhere special. If you have several, create a way to display them all in a tidy and memorable format. Keep this collection off to the side so it’s there if you need it.

Personal Vs. Professional

Manage your personal photos and inspirational items with care. Keep them in one spot and try to make that spot a bit out of the way, such as under a shelf where only you can see it.

You don’t want anyone visiting your office to get overloaded with pictures of your dog if they’re wondering why a project isn’t done. Personal inspiration doesn’t need all your real estate. Keep work projects and references front and center.

Clutter Makes Procrastination A Breeze!

A messy desk can quickly become an excuse. If you didn’t finish a project because you couldn’t find the note that included the instructions, clutter may have cost your points with your boss. Next time, the project may go to someone else, or you may get micromanaged to death on the next project.

If there’s a pile of one project that’s been sitting there a while, it may be because you’re waiting on information from someone else, or it could be that you’re dreading the project. To break the clutter = avoidance = procrastination loop,

  • block out calendar time to push the project as far as you can
  • treat yourself to a boost at the start, such as a coffee treat or a favorite tune on your earphones
  • plan your reward before you start

“Eating the frog” is a common suggestion for completing the “projects I really don’t want to do…” tasks that wind up on your desk. By giving yourself tiny positive bookends to the most unpleasant part of your job, you can build yourself a tastier frog.

Set a Schedule

Once a week, wipe your desk down. Sharpen all your pencils and make sure all the pens and highlighters are fully capped. Go through yellow pads and discard old notes.

Don’t forget to address digital clutter. Sort your email by largest to smallest and dump the big stuff you no longer need. Then sort it from oldest to newest, and again, discard what’s no longer necessary.

By staying on top of clutter, you can reduce the time you spend hunting for that one set of instructions or client data. You can also save yourself the embarrassment of mixing up instructions or sending out the wrong information. If you can’t wrap it up, bundle it into a file and set it aside so you can come back to it later and focus on the tidy data in the bundle.

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