If you’re the kind of person who keeps their desk as tidy and organised as possible, chances are you’re doing well.
Tidy desk, tidy mind.
If your desk looks like it’s being used by three different people however, with the accompanying clutter that comes with that, you’re in trouble. A messy, cluttered desk does much more damage than you might think.
It doesn’t just make it hard to find things. A messy desk can actually affect your thinking, and ultimately your mental health.
And of course, it will definitely affect your productivity.
If you have a tidy, organised desk, you will be able to concentrate for longer on a task. That level of concentration could lead to the ‘flow state’, where you are incredibly focused on the job at hand. The flow makes you more productive and able to produce the necessary results.
If you don’t have an organised desk, your brain simply cannot focus. Our brains like stuff to be organised. If it isn’t, we suffer on a mental level.
Stress and emotional exhaustion are more likely to be present if you have an untidy desk. Recent research shows that having a cluttered desk leads to stress and emotional exhaustion, which in turn prevents people from making effective work-related decisions, which in turn makes people stressed.
Stop the rot
There is a way to ensure that your desk doesn’t affect you mentally and reduce your productivity. And luckily, it’s a step-by-step process that is easy to follow.
Clear your desk. Literally take everything that is on your desk and put it in one large pile on the floor. This will allow you to feel like you’re taking action. You’re not looking for organisation at this stage. You just want it clear of everything so you can see a clear space.
Throw stuff away. This is where you take anything that is simply not useful to you and either throw it away or deal with it. If you’re not sure if something is useful to you, put it in a special pile that is to be dealt with later.
Anything that is useless to you should be recycled. If it is sensitive information, have it shredded.
Clean your desk. Use a wet cloth and wipe down the surface. Any computer or tablet screens need a wipe down. Grab a high quality detergent if you want from the store and use that, or just use soapy water and polish afterwards.
The aim here is to give it all a good clean and get rid of any dust.
Buy some shelves. If you’re a work-at-home person, find some that will fit the room or space you’re working in. If you’re in an office as an employee, you can purchase small shelves that you can fit to the desk or cubicle.
Why shelves? If you purchase shelving it’s going to instantly help reduce the amount of junk in your desk area. And that’s a clear win.
And it’s also a perfect lead-in to the next step.
Storage needs organisation. Label your shelves and drawers as specifically as you can. The clearer the labels, and the more specific they are, the less likely they will have stuff dumped in them. So instead of having a drawer labelled ‘stuff’ you have a drawer labelled ‘expenses’. You get the picture.
You need to work out what things are essential if you’re going to get things done and make sure they are close at hand.
If you use a stapler a lot, it’s earned a place on your desk. The same goes for a hole punch, your lucky pen, whatever. If you use something a lot and it has to be within reach, it is allowed to be in one of two places: the desk itself, or in a clearly-labelled top drawer.
Keep the stuff you need to be productive close to you.
The waste paper basket should be next to your desk, not by the door. This encourages you to use it, rather than leaving stuff on your desk that needs to be binned.
Go back to that pile you made right at the start of this process. Sort through it, ditching stuff that you don’t need in that waste paper basket you cleverly placed next to your desk.
Stuff that you know needs to be kept because it is important should be placed back on the desk. Then, stuff you’re not sure of can go into it’s own separate file that you can (if you wish) label ‘not sure’.
That ‘not sure’ pile should be stored somewhere for a few months. When you revisit that pile, you should be able to prioritise things better, and throw some more stuff out.
The stuff that went back onto your desk should now be sorted and placed on those shelves or in labelled drawers. Do this slowly and methodically. If you see anything that could cause some kind of distraction, keep it off the desk. Use one of the drawers that you have labelled, for example.
Moving forward, it is vitally important that you remember to clean your desk at the end of every day. This will allow you to feel calmer, and more organised.
Habits take time to form, but if you’re able to clear the clutter, and have only essential things close at hand when you sit at your desk, it won’t be too long before you’re feeling less stress. You’ll also be more productive too. There will be fewer distractions on your desk (if any) and a clean space that is dust free.
Once a month, spend time clearing your desk space. It’ll keep paying off.
For the above ten steps, rinse and repeat.
Tidy desk, tidy mind.