You can feel that spring is coming, Yay! It’s a fantastic time to check-in on how much clutter (physical and virtual) is building up. Clutter can create stress in at work (and at home). Decluttering your space at work and helping you to feel more focused. It can also make you more productive and creative
Keeping track of everything we must do is something all of us working in a business are familiar with. In my former corporate life, I had a constant flow of emails. As well as keeping on top of meeting notes, files, project progress. Moreover trying to stay up-to-date with the latest information.
Decluttering Is Painful But Necessary
It can be mentally exhausting, and I often went home feeling that I hadn’t accomplished anything concrete. When I transitioned out of corporate life and started The Little Breathing Space, I wanted to re-evaluate how I approached clutter. Over the last few years, I’ve made a concerted effort to stay on top of my physical and digital clutter. I did this so I can focus better, be more productive and creative.
When it comes to physical things let’s be honest, we all have items we think we’ll need or use later. Some of these have sentimental value. Maybe they cost $$$$. And we feel we must keep them, even if they live in the back of a cupboard for years. And letting go can be painful. Research has shown that areas of the brain associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, light up in response to letting go of items you feel a connection with.
Clutter Competes For Your Attention
Clutter in your workspace can compete for your attention and can result in decreased performance. It can overload your senses, ruin your focus making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively. Clutter can be a nagging reminder that your work is never done, reinforcing negative self-talk about your ability to perform in your role.
And in today’s digital world we have just as much ‘virtual’ clutter. Unread emails, computer files and social media notifications that pop up on your smartphone calling for your attention day and night. When you have too many distractions, your brain doesn’t get a chance to get into the creative flow or process experiences. When your brain is too overloaded, it’s harder to concentrate, remember things and be able to switch quickly between tasks.
But How Much Clutter is Too Much?
How do you know when you’ve reached the tipping point between an acceptable level of clutter and chaos?
If you can find what you need when you need it and don’t feel like your clutter is getting in your way, you are OK. Everyone’s tolerance is different. Researchers have even found that some people need a bit of a mess to feel inspired and get work done.
But, if you can’t think when you sit down at your desk if you waste hours looking for lost items. Or if you aren’t as productive as you should or want to be, clutter is controlling you. A little clutter can be useful as it encourages flexibility, spontaneity, and creativity. But the human brain is wired to respond positively to order. In a decluttered space your mind doesn’t have to work so hard. This approach helps you to calm and energized. Decluttering can even be a segway to taking better care of other aspects of life.
Here are three simple steps to decluttering that have worked for me in my workspace:
Review social media and apps. Be honest how many Facebook groups are you following but never interact with? Set limits on how many people you follow on Twitter and Instagram. Is your phone full of apps you never use? And even review your Facebook friends, are they ever on Facebook or comment or like things you put out there. Do even you like them or did you connect with out of politeness?
I no longer purchase or download any apps until I need them. Reducing my social media clutter means I see the posts from people and groups I’m interested in and want to connect with. This way I’m enjoying what I consume and having less ’noise’ helps me stay off social media which means I’m more focused and productive.
Clear Your Computer Clutter
Every month, review your email inbox and download files. I am guilty of downloading heaps of images and content and not either filing them away or deleting altogether until my entire system was clogged. Now I use them and then put them into the folder in the cloud or remove. This way I’m much more productive as I can find stuff I need quickly.
If you have emails that are more than a month old and you haven’t read them, then they’re unimportant, especially all things you’ve been cc’d or worse still bcc’d on. In my corporate days, always deleted these. I recommend you do the same and if it turns out, they do matter they send you a new email at some point.
Daily Desktop Clear Out
Opening your computer to a cluttered desktop can be stressful. I prefer to move all my desktop files into folders at the end of the day. That way I get a feeling that I’ve completed my tasks for the day and start each morning afresh.
The same goes for papers all over your desk. Creating a filing system and keeping documents in some order. I like writing essential things into a hardbacked book which I keep for reference and then use Evernote to for note-taking. For article or blogs, I now use a voice-activated app called Rev which is super-fast, and I get transcripts back within an hour so. Keeping paper down to a minimum and consequently holds the clutter under control that inevitably creeps up on you when you’re writing.
Clutter, whether physical or digital, is something we all need to manage. Being organized promotes calm and gives you more excellent ability to focus, more room for you to be creative and feel a sense of higher achievement.
This springtime cultivates a habit of clearing your clutter and feel the benefits of being calmer, more focused and more productive.
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