How To Use Your Desk To Boost Productivity

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.

Step One

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.

Step Two

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.

Step Three

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.

Step Four

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.

Step Five

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.

Step Six

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.

Step Seven

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.

Step Eight

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.

Step Nine

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.

Step Ten

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.

How To Be As Productive As Warren Buffett

Thank you to Forbes.com for the image.

If there is anyone who knows how to manage his time, it’s Warren Buffett. Because he knows how to make billions of dollars over and over again, people keep asking him to lead companies, investment groups, and at one point even America.

He once disclosed his productivity secret to his pilot, the guy who flew the plane Buffett traveled around in. Mike Flint (the pilot) flew US Presidents too in his career. But Buffett, and what he told Flint, is what we are here for today.

Flint has told this story a few times now, and it begins with Buffett asking Flint about his career priorities.

That’s when the Buffett productivity secret appeared.

Buffett asked Flint to write down his top 25 career goals. So Flint did just that. He took some time doing it too. It’s not easy thinking of the top 25 career goals in your life.

The next part was more difficult. Buffett asked Flint to circle his top 5 goals out of that 25. Flint took some time over this. Eventually, he had his top 5 career goals in front of him.

Flint made two lists then. By circling his top 5, he now had his 5 most important goals as List A and the other 20 as List B.

He told Buffett that he had his two lists and Buffett responded with ‘So what about the other 20?’ Flint told Buffett that they obviously weren’t as important as the top 5, so he’d focus on them here and there, when he could.

Buffett told him he was wrong. The other 20 were not to be touched or tackled in any way at all. He called this list the ‘avoid at all cost list’. Flint was not to even look at this list until that top 5 was taken care of.

Why the method works

Image for post
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

If you have created a list of top 25 career priorities, you’ve created a list of things that you care about. If you narrowed that down to 5 and 20, you still care about the 20. That hasn’t changed.

Buffett, however, says you avoid distraction. You don’t even look at the 20 until you have fully completed the top 5.

That’s how he became someone who is worth $84 billion as of 2019.

You can apply this same method to the next month, the next week, the next hour. It’s versatile like that, because what you’re doing is true prioritisation. You’re clearing your mind of distraction and focusing only on the 5 most important things to do or complete.

Imagine having that laser focus for a week.

Go for it.

Nine Questions To Ask In Your Weekly Review

‘We run this company on questions, not answers’

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google

Pretty much all of the task management and productivity courses and apps out there right now recommend some kind of ‘weekly review’. This is a time during your week when you sit down and reflect on your work. It’s also a time when you’re supposed to track progress on your goals as well.

The only problem with the weekly review is that it can be unwieldy. Some systems encourage you to carry notebooks with sticky notes. Some suggest charts, actual charts that you carry around with you. And before you ask, even phone apps that cover a weekly review do so in an incredibly complicated way. Before you know it, the weekly review has become just another task. And an arduous one at that.

However, I don’t believe in making life difficult.

I’ve taken a look at the whole weekly review thing and I’ve put together what I feel are some great questions that will get your brain fired up immediately. These questions will indeed allow you to review your week and think about the next seven days, but the big difference is that it isn’t hard work.

Take a look at them, and then try to answer them right now. Hopefully, you’ll see that they instantly help to organize your thinking around your work and your progress.

And the best news is they can be written down in five minutes. This means you don’t need sticky notes or a fancy app. And you definitely don’t need charts for this.

The best news? I’ve cut my weekly review questions down to nine.

  1. What do I need to get done in the next few days?
  2. Are there any new projects I could get started on?
  3. What went wrong last week and what could I learn from what went wrong?
  4. What went well last week and what could I do to build on that?
  5. How well am I meeting my obligations? My duties?
  6. What is the biggest challenge in the week ahead?
  7. Can I get help to solve that challenge?
  8. What did I do last week that helped towards meeting my goals?
  9. What goals do I have for the next seven days?

Why questions?

Image for post

The best thing about questions when it comes to reviewing your week or your progress is that they encourage specificity.

A question asks you to focus. It makes you think about something carefully and thus comes back with clarity.

I don’t doubt that it’s important to review our progress on a weekly basis. Some of the most successful innovators do it. In the world of investing, if you don’t review your week, you’re heading for disaster.

While I agree with reviewing, it should never be complicated or long-winded. It needs to be sharp, quick and precise.

And questions are sharp, quick and precise. These nine questions help you review your week, focus on lessons to be learned, and look ahead to the next seven days.

Oh, and you don’t need sticky notes.

Happy questioning.

How to be as productive as Jack Dorsey

You will most likely have read around a hundred times that it is important to model yourself on successful people if you want to be successful. It makes sense, and most of the time it isn’t hard to do. Every now and then though, you find a potential model that is just a little ‘too much’.

Jack Dorsey is the genius behind Twitter. Or the maniac behind modern mass attention deficit disorder, whatever. He’s also a scarily healthy guy. And his productivity and efficiency is huge. He’s a bit of a productivity icon.

Apparently, being one of the most famous (and most productive) social media Gods on the planet requires a lot of work behind the scenes. While I don’t (I really don’t) expect anyone else to manage all of what Dorsey does for his health, maybe one or two of the following aspects of his regime could be for you?

Or me, even?

I’m going to give it a go for a while. After each of these three (relatively easier) parts of Jack’s insane life, I’ll tell you what I’m doing to reach his level.

So here’s how he’s so productive.

Productivity secret one: meditation

“I’ve more or less kept up the practice of two hours … a day,” but “if you can just get 10 minutes, and sometimes that’s all I can find, that’s what I do.”

This is his biggie. He loves meditation. So much so that he’s travelled to other countries to meditate for ten days at a time. Last year he posted pictures on social media (sorry, Twitter) of one of his retreats. His time was spent without devices, meat, talking, books, and even eye contact. Just straight meditation.

Meditation decereases a ton of the bad stuff that happens in your life,from stress to distractedness. It also helps with focus and productivity. In other words, it helps make him Jack Dorsey.

If you can’t fit in two hours a day like Dorsey, go for the ten minutes.

I’m busy though, and to be honest, meditation has always made me a little stressed in the past. Mindfulness helps, and there are at least two apps already I’m looking at to build up mindfulness. Maybe they’ll get me started.

Also, I’m a little annnoyed at seeing all these apps for meditation that make you pay quite significant amounts for membership. Not good. And certainly not great Karma.

What I plan to do: Investigate mindfulness apps and see if they help.

Productivity secret two: he doesn’t eat (much)

“It really has increased my appreciation for food and taste because I’m deprived of it for so long during the day…”

Dorsey is talking about intermittent fasting right there. There are many different variations of this process but I like the one he seems to have used more than once.

The Dorsey version asks that you don’t eat until lunch and that you don’t eat after eight pm. So you have this window of around eight hours during which you can eat. This keeps the rest of your waking hours free of food.

This is doable. Wake up, go to work. Eat at lunch. Then have dinner and no food after eight.

The main hurdle for me would be missing breakfast. My body is conditioned to have breakfast. Other than that, if all you have to worry about is no food after eight, it’s not a tough thing to implement.

Except that’s not quite true.

Silly me, I didn’t get the full story.

On digging further, I found that Dorsey eats only once a day and he doesn’t eat all weekend.

This is something I know I can’t do. I can do the no eating outside of certain hours thing, but not eating at the weekends is something I’m not even going to entertain.

What I plan to do: The only time I will eat is between 12 pm and eight pm.

Productivity secret three: supplements

“The only supplements I take are daily multivitamin and vitamin C, a lot of vitamin C…”

Ah, supplements.

If you’re like me, there are probably a couple of tubs of multivitamins and one or two special seaweed and/or kelp supplement boxes hidden away in your kitchen cupboard.

If you’re not like me, congratulations.

In any case, I’m planning to crack open a pack and start a daily regime for a few days (if that makes sense). If I see any kind of improvment at all I’ll keep it up. However, I’m very aware that there are millions of peope out there who really think supplements are placebos in nice packagaing. We shall see.

What I plan to do: Take multivitamins every day for a week.

Next steps

I’m intrigued. Dorsey has made it clear on more than one occasion that the only reason he does the ‘weird’ health stuff is so that he can keep running his various companies well. He’s worth around £4 billion, which means he’s doing something right.