Most of us spend a great deal of our waking lives at work, sitting behind desks. So it is inevitable that our workspaces reflect and impact our personal lives. A disorganized desk not only contributes to inefficiency at the office, it can also increase stress and put a strain on your home life. And though it may seem like a waste of time to spend hours streamlining your workspace while there is an always-rising pile of ‘actual’ work to get done, you’ll be amazed how productive you become when the clarity of your workspace begins to manifest itself in your labor.
Our physical surroundings have an enormous influence over our mental landscapes. A better workspace translates to better work. Here’s how to boost your professional performance and improve your life by cultivating both:
Clear the Clutter
No matter what industry you work in, a streamlined and clutter-free workspace is necessary for efficiency. Only keep things at hand that you need and frequently use. File away work that is already completed, throw away work that is no longer relevant, and eliminate anything superfluous to the task at hand. Organization isn’t just about appearance. A clean and clear workspace saves time, keeps important items from being misplaced, reduces stress, and will help you avoid costly distractions.
Categorizing is the cornerstone of organization. Divide and arrange your work into separate files or folders corresponding to certain tasks, clients, and/or topics. Physically categorizing drawers helps you stay on task, and a categorized computer desktop helps manage large projects and chart progress over time. Categorizing is a great way to break big overwhelming jobs into smaller tasks, and is a powerful tool for understanding the ‘big picture.’
Decide what is important for excelling in your work, and organize your workspace accordingly. This might mean arranging files in a hierarchy from most to least important. Or it might mean clearing a large space for building prototypes and making sketches by putting the computer somewhere less conspicuous. Perhaps your brainstorming whiteboard needs to occupy a more prominent position in the office. Whatever contributes to your best work should be placed in the most important part of the space.
Put Yourself in a Position to Improve
How you sit has a huge impact on how you work. Do you often catch yourself looking out the window daydreaming? Maybe your desk should face the other way. Is your reclining chair making your drowsy? Is your poor posture influencing your work? Sit upright with a straight back in a comfortable chair, and don’t allow yourself to be too relaxed.
Eating in the Office
Stop eating at your desk! Eat meals at regular times, and eat them somewhere apart from your workspace. Stop distracting yourself with snacks, and stop associating your workspace with your anything that isn’t directly related to work. If work is the only thing you allow yourself to do at your desk, you’ll find you encounter far fewer distractions whenever you sit down.
The Eye of Authority
Studies have shown people are far more productive when they have the impression of being watched. Put a photo of an admired authority figure or someone who inspires you on your desk. You’ll focus better and be less likely to procrastinate.
We all know our minds and bodies are intimately connected. Yet few make a concerted effort to improve their mental landscapes by changing their physical surroundings. Instead, we fill our workplaces with distraction, and complain of lacking focus. We allow our bodies languish, and lament feeling drowsy. We let clutter overrun our desks, and feel overwhelmed.
The first step toward an ideal workspace—though most will never take it––is becoming aware of how your environment impacts your psychology. So pay close attention to what you fill your desk with, and understand you are filling your mind with these things too. Awareness paves the path to efficiency. By conscientiously cultivating the former, the changes you need will quickly become obvious.
Matthew is a researcher at Legalweekjobs.com, chess-obsessive, clean freak and an avid Lifehacker reader.
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