You may have heard the phrase “a clean space equals a clean mind,” but what exactly does that mean? In the workplace, it’s pretty simple: if you have a clean desk, you are more likely to be productive. A Princeton Neuroscience Institute study found that multiple items in your visual field at the same time become competitive stimuli.
Basically, everything you’re looking at is fighting for your attention, making it difficult to focus on just one thing. This visual pollution, a term that applies to anything in your line of vision that could attract your attention unnecessarily, includes pieces of paper, random objects from other parts of the house, or even cables and wires on your desk. Of course, you don’t have to completely clear your workspace of everything, but there are ways to organize your space that make it more beneficial to your productivity. Decluttering your desk to reveal a white, shiny surface can help clear your mind of distractions and allow you to work much more effectively.
So, what can you do to produce a clean desk, clean space, and a clean (and clear) mind?
Eliminate What is Not Needed
Take a look around your desk and think about what really needs to be there at that moment. You probably need different things for different assignments or projects. However, you’re not working on all your projects all the time. Decide what you are working on, make a to-do list and pick what you need for that project, and then remove everything else.
There also may be things that you use each day, but that doesn’t always mean they need to be on your desk. Clear up your space by taking things, such as a calendar, and putting them on the walls around you or in drawers. Pro-tip: Give these necessities a specific place where you can always find them. That way, you won’t be digging through drawers next time you need to staple something. You’ll know exactly where it is – not on top of your desk!
Main Point: If it isn’t pertinent to what you’re working on in the moment, put it away.
Get Rid of Distractions
A cluttered desk isn’t just about visual clutter, but also about mental clutter in the form of interruptions that happen during the day. Between people stopping by wanting to talk, your phone buzzing with notifications, and a constant stream of emails, getting distracted happens easily. But you can minimize many of these interruptions that act as mental clutter.
Cell phones are often the biggest distraction, taking up hours of our attention each day. Try putting your phone on silent or even Do Not Disturb mode while you’re working, rather than just setting it to vibrate, which still makes noise. You could use one of the many productivity apps that shut off notifications for a scheduled amount of time and offer incentives for not touching your phone during that time. Better yet, tuck your phone into your bag or a drawer during work hours – this eliminates both the mental and the visual clutter!
Other distractions, like people stopping by to chat or sending emails, maybe helped by setting a schedule. Schedule specific times of day that you check your email, giving it priority during that time and that time only. You can do the same with co-workers, setting break times or making plans to meet up for lunch. If they stop by while you’re working, offer a gentle reminder that your next break is at X time. By setting a schedule and sticking to it, you offer people your full attention and give them a structure they can depend on – and you can depend on.
Main Point: Scheduling distractions as an event keeps them from being mental clutter while you’re working.
Why Is It Essential to Have a Clean Desk?
With minimal visual pollution, you will feel way less stressed out – just ask Marie Kondo. Having clutter in a space where you are trying to work only draws in negative feelings and stress.
Visual and mental clutter both create an extremely distracting work environment, which is detrimental to productivity. When your desk is clear and you’ve rid yourself of further distractions, you’ll feel better and get significantly more done.
Keeping a clean space and clean desk isn’t just about pride for your home or workspace; it’s also a matter of clearing your mind of worry and letting you focus on what’s important. It’s simple, effective and can help you live a much more productive and happy life.