Have you ever noticed how workspaces look so simple and organized in stock photographs? You know, like the image I’ve used for this article? That setup is so efficient it looks like work will practically do itself! Give me a break. No one’s desk really looks like that. Which can be a problem when it comes to productivity.
How Your Physical Workspace Affects Productivity
In 2011, OfficeMax conducted a workspace organization survey in which over 1,000 adults participated. A whopping 77% of participants said clutter damages their productivity.
Disorganization makes it hard to find things, and the time you spend searching through jumbled stacks of papers and folders is time you could have been using to accomplish a task.
Over half of all respondents in the OfficeMax survey said that “disorganization impairs their state of mind and motivation levels.” Sooner or later, you start to feel buried under the conglomeration of materials you’ve accumulated. Getting your office or cubicle in order will help reduce stress and increase productivity.
Realistic Changes that Will Help You Get Organized and Be Productive
I’ll guess that when you first started working for your current employer, the clutter you now face every day was not required for a job well done. Am I right? So there is no reason why you can’t get back to the basics of a more minimalist work station today. Don’t worry, your family photo can stay where it is.
1. Identify the Essentials
A great place to start is identifying what items you need to perform your job. We’re getting back to basics, here. Determine what your bare essentials are and then give each item a designated place where it is always within an arm’s reach.
What should you do with the non-essentials you’ve had lying around? Toss them, file them, gift them, or return them to the appropriate person or place.
2. Establish a Filing System
Depending on the line of work involved, filing systems often vary from person to person. But there are some recommended basics to keep in mind when determining your method.
- Separate “read” from “not read:” The papers you have already read should be placed in a separate folder or tray from the papers you have not read yet.
- Categorization: Once you have read a document, categorize it appropriately. For some people this means color coding papers with post-it filing tabs to distinguish high importance items from standard, daily tasks. Others may prefer to file documents according to particular projects or clients. Choose the categorization method that makes the most sense for your job and—here’s the most important part—stick with it!
3. Minimize Noise
Has your office adopted an open floor plan? If so, you’re forced to work amidst disruptive noise. A study published by Cornell University reports that noise decreases productivity, increases stress and illness, and can lower job satisfaction.
Your productivity also declines when listening to music, according to cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Levitin and a growing number of research studies on the subject. “In almost every case, your performance on intellectual tasks such as reading and writing suffers considerably when you listen to music,” explains Levitin.
What should you do? Since asking for your own office is probably out of the question, try investing in some noise canceling headphones and foregoing the music while you’re at work.
4. Prepare Your Work Area Ahead of Time
It only takes five or ten minutes to prepare your workspace for the following day. Set aside about ten minutes every evening before leaving the office to clear your desk of trash, clean mugs and other dishes, install necessary updates on your computer, and create a to-do list for the next day. These few minutes of organization will allow you to come into work each morning to a functional workspace that encourages productivity.
5. De-clutter Your Computer Desktop
Not only do many office workers feel overwhelmed by the amount of clutter on their physical desktop, they also get stressed by the state of their digital desktop. If you’re working in an office environment, chances are pretty good that you rely heavily on a computer to carry out your duties. So it’s important to keep this part of your workspace clean and functional.
Create a digital filing system that provides quick, easy access to all of your documents. Again, the structure of this system will depend on your preferences and job function, but there are some guidelines that will help you along.
- Avoid putting everything in one folder: This pretty much says it all. Saving all your files in the same folder is like dumping all of your papers and office supplies into one desk drawer. What a mess!
- Logical categorization is key: Try taking the same categorization method you chose for your paper filing system and applying it to your digital documents.
- Don’t go overboard with subfolders: Subfolders are great. But be careful not to over-complicate your system with too many of them. When important files are four or five clicks away, your intricate storage system starts to be a time waster instead of a time saver.
A workspace and the items within it should facilitate productivity rather than hinder it. Implementing these five changes will have you well on your way to accomplishing more each time you sit down at your desk.