5 Reasons a Messy Desk Is Not Good For Your Productivity

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Do you feel stressed or distracted as soon as you get to work? Here’s one cause you may not have considered: not having a clean desk at work

Sure, you’ve probably heard things like “yeah, my desk is messy, but so was Einstein’s”. This idea that having a cluttered desk is a good thing has become much more common in the last few years. But alas, that doesn’t make it right and we’re going to do a bit of debunking.

Here are 5 reasons why a cluttered desk isn’t better:

messy desk

1It Creates Stress

When you start the day feeling like you’re behind, that can be deeply discouraging. That’s exactly what happens (even subconsciously) when you’ve got unsorted piles all over your workspace.

2It’s Distracting

A mess can stop your flow. If you find your eyes drifting to the odds and ends strewn around your desk, those moments are lost time. More importantly, it’s an interruption. This can be particularly counterproductive when you’re “in-the-zone” and cranking out fast, quality work.

3It’s Unhealthy

The average office keyboard has roughly 7,500 bacteria on it. Taking care of yourself includes taking care of your work surfaces. An uncleaned desk can have a real impact on how often you’re sick or not feeling well.

4It Can Undermine Your Reputation

According to Adecco, a majority of Americans (57%) admit they judge co-workers by how clean or dirty they keep their workspaces.

If you work in an office or shared space, your desk will impact how your colleagues and superiors see you. A messy or disorganized desk can be interpreted as a sign you are disorganized and inefficient in your work. That’s not the type of image any of us want.

5It Reduces Self Confidence

In addition to affecting the way others see you, a messy desk can impact how you see yourself. Don’t miss the importance of this. Having confidence can have a profound impact on how you present yourself and pursue your work. A clean desk at work is a very simple step that can have a variety of benefits in your professional life.

Now that we’ve established the negative effects of a messy desk, let’s do something about it. Here are 4 things you can start today to get your desk in order:

1. Create a Cleaning Habit

Even 15 minutes/week makes a huge difference. I like to do this on Friday afternoons. It gives me a sense of resolution and paves the way for a positive start on Monday morning. If you want to go bigger, decluttering at the end of each workday can be a great cadence.

2. Purge Based on Frequency

If you don’t use it every week, store it or throw it away. If you use it every week, put it in an easily accessible bin/shelf/drawer. In case you use it daily (or hourly), keep it within reach. The idea is to strategically place files, tools, and materials based on how often you use them.

3. Create a Clear Filing System

This applies to paper files and digital files. The amount of time we waste trying to find stuff is outrageous. Take an hour to establish a clear system. This will save you hours (even weeks) in the long run.

4. Splurge on Organization Tools

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your desk is to add something to it. That may be a bit counter-intuitive but adding something like a shelf or desk cover can have a huge impact on the look and feel of your workspace.

That’s it, now do it! Add a block to your calendar or planner and transform your workspace into a well-oiled machine.

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Author: Jonathon Yarde

If you'd like to see more from Jonathon, check out his website and blog at Consultant Essentials. Jonathon is an entrepreneur, and freelance writer, specializing in topics related to consulting, time management, and organization. In addition, Jonathon is a frequent traveler, who loves backpacking, fly-fishing, and local music.

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