We’ve all seen the little placards with that timeless office proverb, “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.” While we’ll leave questions of your personal sanity for someone else to sort out, you might find that sprucing up your office is actually good for your productivity. Who knew?
Get rid of the distracting items that tempt you to play around when you should be working.
When you look around your office and think about straightening things up, does a feeling of anxiety set in? It's OK. You'll get through this.
Here is a 5 step plan.
1. Bust That Clutter!
Start with those piles of paper and magazines. Chances are, there are plenty of items that you've been meaning to shred in those stacks. Do it! The items that you may need to reference later, you should file. Anything older than one year should be clearly labeled and put in storage.
2. Deal With Mail Decisively
Another thing you can do to get more organized is change the way you deal with mail. Set up separate trays for different categories of mail. Don't let it pile up. If it needs to be filed, file it. If it requires action on your part, take action! If it's junk, recycle it. Make sure to shred the items which contain sensitive information.
You may also want to consider signing up for paperless billing for your bills, and offering it to your clients. You can always print things up later if you need them, and there are project management programs (some of which are free) which make providing paperless billing to your clients easy.
3. Organize Your Desk
Get rid of all of the distracting items that might tempt you to play around when you should probably be working. Organize your drawers so that everything you use frequently is close at hand and easy to find. Taking the time to do this just once will help you to reap great benefits in terms of saved time later. It's extremely counterproductive to spend the time you should be using to get things done, hunting for your stapler or pen.
4. Create a Dedicated Workspace
This is critical: If you work from home, then your home office should not also be your children's play area, your dining area, or your living room. You should have a dedicated workspace. This is not to say that you absolutely must have an entire room dedicated to your office (though if you have the room, go for it), but you should at least have an isolated, quiet section of space that is devoted entirely to getting work done.
When you take your work that seriously, others will too. This simple step will increase your productivity by freeing you from distraction, and may also provide tax benefits (by netting you the home-office deduction.)
5. Maintain the Organization
Once you've tackled the clutter, organized your desk, and dealt with all of your correspondence, you need to keep up the good work. It doesn't take much more effort to keep a clean office clean than it does to occasionally make a filthy one slightly less terrible. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day straightening things up and organizing. You’ll feel more inspired when you sit down to work if you have a clean, well-organized workspace.
Finally, once clean, you may even consider giving the place a fresh coat of paint. Doing so can reinforce that there is a new, more organized, sheriff in town!