Conquer the clutter & increase your productivity


As the old adage goes – chaos breeds creativity. But there is a stark difference between ‘chaos’ and ‘organised chaos’ and it is organisation which is the real key to long term success.

When it comes to our working life, we always start the year off with the best of intentions, however as we get busier and busier, processes fall off and clutter begins to take over. As we approach the midway point of 2017, you may feel a little overwhelmed, as you juggle to keep many balls in the air – here are some of the way you can get on top of both the spatial and mental clutter, and maintain productivity.

According to Susan Whitbourne, Professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts, as employees amass stacks of things around the office, it has a psychological effect on the office, as a whole. Whitbourne notes that, through the process of decluttering our work spaces, we achieve a sense of positive reinforcement which can decrease stress levels and make us feel like we are in greater control of things.

To regain this sense of control over our working life, we should take a minimalist approach to our working environments.  We must first take stock of the essential items – items which we use every day.  Once the essentials have been defined, we can then look at the best way to store these items.

Danny van der Velde, owner of Albany based printing company CMD Print Solutions notes that it is around this time of year, when 6 months of clutter begins to take hold that he begins to see a rise in purchase for storage products.

“As clutter begins to build up in offices around the country, we notice a rise in interest of our organisational products – such as freestanding document holders that contain paper based clutter”.

If you are unsure about which items are essential or expendable, try placing said items into storage containers.  Revisit these items two weeks later and if you find you have not touched them, chances are they are expendable.

Mental clutter can take more discipline to conquer. Whitebourne comments that we are often hindered by self-defeating behaviours or thoughts. If you are feeling stressed by a large task, this is often due to a disordered steam of thoughts which are constantly entering your mind. Instead of reactively acting on these thoughts, stop and take the time to write down the steps you need to take to complete the overall task. This will allow you to prioritise what is really important.

For those juggling a range of thoughts, van der Velde recommends products like whiteboards and notebooks which will allow users to stay mindful of the task and hand, but allow them to get the ideas out their heads.

Establishing a set morning routine will also help you take control of mental clutter. According to Dr Martinez of the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, having a relaxed, mindful morning where you can plan the day’s tasks allows you to ease into your day with the sense that you are on top of things. In the evenings she suggests an activity which allows you to decompress and unwind your mind such as a walk outdoors, a coloring book  – anything that allows your mind to switch off.

Conquering the clutter will not happen overnight. But if we actively take steps to reduce and reorganise the physical things in our work environments while staying mindful of our daily routines and habits, we can begin to work smarter.

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