Does your mind drift somewhere else every time you sit down to work? Maybe the state of your desk is to blame. According to a 2011 OfficeMax Workspace Organization Survey, 90 percent of Americans believe that disorganization negatively impacts their lives. In particular, 77 percent say that messy desks contribute to their lack of productivity, while 53 percent don’t think highly of co-workers whose workspaces look like the aftermath of Armageddon.
To be fair, there was that one study on the link between messiness and creativity, but it still acknowledged that some degree of neatness is essential for productivity. And being organized has other benefits, too. One study, which was conducted over the course of 20 years, found that conscientious people tend to live longer, since their risk-taking tendencies are low.
If that’s enough to convince you to minimalize your workspace, take the plunge and follow these general tips on clearing up your desk in a way that works for you:
Identify Your Essentials
If you can make do with only a laptop, that’s fine. If you need a pen-and-paper combo to your left, and a framed picture of your significant other to the right, that’s fine, too. What’s important is you’re able to focus on your work by keeping only the bare essentials on your desk at all times.
Buy a Drawer
What about the papers, folders and other stuff you cleared away from your desk? Don’t you still need to access those every now and then?
In this case, a good drawer can solve your problem. Put it in a place that’s far enough not to be distracting, but close enough to be accessible when you need to pull something out in a jiffy. This way, you can keep your stuff organized. You won’t accidentally throw out anything important, and you won’t have to deal with the sight of folders constantly distracting you.
If a drawer isn’t practical, but you don’t want to throw out the physical copies of your files and folders, you can always make digital copies of them. Save them in a backup drive or a secure cloud storage service, like Dropbox or Google Drive, so you won’t lose them in case disaster strikes.
Also, don’t be afraid to use apps. Not only will they automate otherwise tedious tasks, but they’ll also eliminate the need for space-consuming stuff like Post-Its, printouts, clocks, etc. And since you can install most of them on your smartphone, you can use them anywhere and not worry about forgetting anything.
Clear Your Computer Desktop
It’s not just your physical desk that needs organizing. If your desktop is covered halfway through with icons, half of which you barely use, those extra ones should be transferred into another folder or two. Label those folders with descriptions like “Tools,” “Client Work” and “Miscellaneous,” so you’ll know where to look in case you need something specific.
Use Space-Saving Peripherals
For example, instead of a conventional keyboard, you can use a Happy Hacking Keyboard, which does away with numeric keypads and arrow keys. Likewise, a multi-function printer can come in handy when you need to save space. Or you can ditch the desktop PC setup altogether, and go for a more mobile laptop.
Clear Your Surroundings
If you’re going to make your desk minimalist, you might as well extend it to the rest of your workspace. Keep your floor clean. Then, take down any distracting posters from the surrounding walls, and make sure you have good lighting for maximum creativity and productivity. You can also check out MinimalDesks.com for ideas on minimal office design.
Designing your workspace is a highly personal thing, so feel free to tweak the above tips according to what suits you. Give the “minimalist workspace” concept a shot — it might just be the solution to your clogged-up workflow.