Have you ever looked at your workspace and felt overwhelmed? Does it feel easier to walk away from it than fix it? Facing a messy desk can be draining. 

People fall trap to the Einstein theory, “a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” hiding behind a false truth that a clean workspace indicates a lack of creativity or intelligence.

It’s important to note that an organized workspace is not necessarily the same as an empty desk.

True too, there is research from scientists from the University of Minnesota  who found “that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.” Specifically, you can gain leaps in outcomes in supporting creativity.

Unfortunately, most people, while they might really need to harness and encourage creativity situationally, are probably striving for productivity.  

Tidiness as Princeton University researcher Professor Sabine Kastner found is key to clear thinking and being productive.

“Visual clutter competes with our brain’s ability to pay attention and tires out our cognitive functions over time.”

Tiring cognitive process means your brain gets tired. Tired brains think slower. Slower thinking produces slower, less effective work.

Being tidy and clean also supports generally good behaviors and supports people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an office job or if you work from home, keeping an organized desk and workspace is very important in order to work efficiently. It’s not always easy to pay attention to cleaning and organization when you’re worried about important deadlines, which is why your space can quickly turn into a mess.

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And, in light of some of the debate on clean desk vs messy desk – it’s important to realize this is real

So in the course of the next week or so, find and block out time on your calendar to concentrate on your workspace. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re able to find everything you need quickly and efficiently!

Consider some of the following cleaning tips for your workspace:

1. File away your paperwork. Paperwork can get out of hand fast. Spend some time sorting through your paperwork. File important papers away, and shred any personal documents that you won’t need anymore.

* Put all loose paperwork into a filing system and keep folders for any paperwork that you’re currently working on. As new papers come in, try to deal with them right away, instead of leaving them on your desk for later.

2. Clean your work surfaces.

Since you’ll be able to finally see the bottom of your desk, you need to take advantage of the opportunity to clean the surfaces underneath the old clutter. Also take time to clean all of your desk items such as staplers, pens, and paper trays.

 

3. Make your business contacts digital.

Start a list of all your business contacts somewhere on your computer, such as your address book in your email. Keep track of their business name, photos, phone number, mailing address, and email addresses. This way you can toss out their old business cards that may be piling up on your desk.

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4. Deal with old reminder notes.

If you have post-it notes all around the office, sift through them and throw out the ones that no longer apply. Reorganize them by priority, or make digital files to keep track of them. Post-its can get disorganized fast, so if you have something on a post-it that’s a long-term project, it’s better to keep your notes on your computer.

5. Deal with digital clutter.

Yep, this is a real thing. Cleaning your workspace doesn’t apply only to your physical workspace. Is anything cluttering up your computer’s hard drive? Go through your e-mail inbox and delete those you don’t need or file them away.

* Clean up your computer desktop and delete old files or back them up to an external drive. Take the time to properly back up your files often, so you never lose important work.

6. Organize your supplies.

Gather your work supplies into one area of your desk. Keep them in that space or a specific drawer. This will give them a permanent place so they’re not left out and scattered around your desk at all times.

 

7. Clean the areas around the room.

Vacuum the room around your desk and wash the windows, baseboards, and more. It’s probably not an area that you often think about, which is why it’s likely due for a cleaning.

 

 

8. Make a future cleaning schedule.

If spring cleaning for your workspace was a burden on you, it probably means that you let things get out of hand this year. You can prevent it from happening again by doing periodic cleaning of your workspace.

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* Once you have an organizational system in place, you can spend maybe 30 minutes per week keeping everything clean and organized.

Then there are the ‘softer’ benefits of a clean, organized workspace – like a clean office environment is more inviting to you, your clients, and anyone you work with.

So, the next time you find yourself embroiled in the battle of the cluttered versus the organized desk, don’t fall into the trap. Remember, there are times that clutter might be helpful. But, if your focus is to get stuff done, getting organized is what will get you moving forward.