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How to Declutter Your Workspace

How to Declutter Your Workspace

    I’ve just had an opportunity to declutter my workspace, having spent half of the day swapping my home office and my son’s room around. The swap wasn’t an excuse to declutter (rather, to make better use of the utter lack of telephone outlets in our house) but I take every chance I get; we all know how clutter can creep up and before you know it you can’t turn around in your chair without knocking something over.

    I’m a musician and it has always been hard to keep my office space uncluttered; at a minimum I need a decent set of speakers, monitoring headphones, a keyboard, a mixer and digital audio input and an array of instruments in my working space to compose and create. That’s in addition to all the tools I need for the other half of my work life, which is writing. Each time I declutter I have to try and strike a balance between accessibility and lack of clutter, and each time I optimize enough to find a setup that works a little better.

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    I spend most days of the week in this room, usually way more than the recommended eight hours of work a day. So having a good workspace is important; ergonomic equipment is only one half of the equation – the physical half. The other half is mental, and for me, the best way to keep a positive attitude throughout the day is to have a clean, decluttered working area and a fair bit of natural light coming into the room.

    Here’s what I did. Bear in mind you don’t have to go to this extreme end of the spectrum, but I was clearing out the room anyway so there was no harm in doing it properly!

    1. Remove everything from the room

    If you’re decluttering the same way I have, this means removing everything, including the assorted junk hidden in your cupboard (built-in wardrobe if your home office was really meant to be a bedroom!). Yes, I know it’s in there. You can’t fool everyone.

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    Now that the room is empty, I suggest taking the opportunity to vacuum, clean the walls, and do anything else you need to do to get the room in its best condition. You don’t empty the whole room often and this may be your last chance for a few more months, or even years if you don’t move regularly. The cleaning stage is all a part of decluttering, really, and fortunately you’ve got unhindered access to every cranny of the room.

    2. View all items as equals

    The first thing you do when you examine the contents of a room for decluttering is discount your ability to declutter certain things. You look at the furniture of the room, for instance, and don’t even consider whether you need it in there or not; your mind automatically bypasses those things and looks at the assorted pile of junk.

    It is quite possible that the bookshelf or a part of your desk is actually clutter you don’t need. I have one of those corner desks similar to this (though way less ugly!). By viewing all my items as potential targets of the decluttering machine, I realized I could gain significant space in the room as well as provide less surface area for clutter creep by removing the rounded pane in the middle that connects the two main desk surfaces.

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    3. Choose necessities

    The next temptation is to fill the room with things you think you might need to have on hand, but in reality only use once a week or once a month. The key to a successful decluttering is to choose the absolute necessities for your workspace, and only bring those items back into the office. At this point the only things I have on my desk are my computer, keyboard, mouse, speakers and a notebook (as in the kind with paper inside) and pen.

    I’m trialling a system with my music equipment that will require me to bring them out of storage only when I need to use them. The main difficulty with this system in the past has been the time it costs to plug everything in and set it up, but I’ve found a solution that’ll only cost about a minute in set up time; I think I can live with that!

    4. Place items consciously

    Once you have made a conscious decision about what gets to come back in before you bring everything back in, you can go about finding a place for each item. Think carefully about where you’re going to put it in order to maximize the amount of room you have, in terms of both floor space and desk space. As I mentioned, removing one component of my desk allowed me to increase my floor space drastically which reduces the sense of clutter and claustrophobia. It has already made the office a much more productive and positive place to work.

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    Don’t just chuck everything you’re left with back in the way it came out. Decluttering is pointless unless you put some thought into every step and really optimize all aspects of your workspace. In short, decluttering isn’t just about throwing things away.

    5. Make a commitment to regular decluttering

    Many people would tell you that you should now make a general and obtuse commitment to keep your workspace decluttered, but we all know how clutter works. It creeps up slowly and you have to set aside a specific time at a regular interval to fight it off and keep it at bay. Whether you find five minutes at the end of each day or an hour once a week works best for you, don’t make the mistake of telling yourself you’ll just magically keep the workspace uncluttered with your newfound clean-freak attitude. You won’t. Just make a commitment to declutter again in the future at regular intervals.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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