Do you start your work day with the best of intentions–and then find, hours later, you’ve gotten nothing done?
Your problem just might be your desk and office. If you improve your workspace, you can also increase your productivity.
For most people, the your desk makes up the biggest part of your work space. Organizing your desk to eliminate distractions, and streamline your workflow, can help you increase your productivity. If you need to clean your desk start with the that. Need some help with a desk-cleaning project? I can get you started with a simple desk-cleaning project here.
If your desk isn’t piled too deep with stuff you might just need a little help to improve your workspace. Here are four tips to put you on the path to improving your workspace and increasing your productivity.
Ditching desktop distractions can help you stay focused on your work
Over the years, I have amassed a large collection of stress “balls.” I use the term balls loosely because almost none of them are actually balls. I’ve picked them up at trade shows, received them in packages from vendors and been given them by friends. At one time, they all lived in a corner of my desk. Of course, I also had a corner desk that stretched six feet in each direction. Now I share my home office and my total desk length is only 30″.
It didn’t take long to realize my cute little stress balls–and a few other distracting desk accessories–were gobbling up some very valuable desktop real estate. Now they live in a tub in the basement where my kids can play with them and I get more work done. Reducing the visual clutter and the temptation to take too frequent breaks has helped me increase productivity.
Kill the clutter and lower your stress level
I know when my desktop gets piled high with paper, I have a much harder time staying focused on my work. I swear I can hear those papers calling my name. And, of course, whatever I suddenly need for my next project will be at the bottom of the third pile I dig through. Organizing the paper and project clutter is one of the quickest ways you can increase your productivity.
As you finish a project, take a few minutes and put away all the supplies you got out for that particular project, whether it’s notes, writing implements, art supplies, or cameras and recording equipment. Not only will it free up desk space for whatever you’re doing next, it will also signal to your mind that you are done with a task and give you a mental declutter as well.
Taking 10 minutes to clear away all the papers at the end of each work day means I can start the next day fresh without feeling the weight of my work looming over me. It also means I’m less likely to spill something on an important document, but that’s my personal klutziness issue.
Take a Break.
Too much time at your desk wears you down and starts to shrink your attention span. Regular breaks are good for your productivity AND your health. Science has found that for optimal productivity, working 52 minutes with a 17-minute break is the way to go. As an interesting coincidence, when I was in high school, our classes were 52 minutes long (but only one 17-minute break called “Conference Period”). In “Step Away from the Computer” you can learn more about how breaks will actually help you increase your productivity and get more done.
Don’t Be a Clock Watcher
Even if you have a looming deadline or an important appointment, constantly keeping one eye on the clock won’t help you get finished any faster. Use your calendar/alarm clock app on your computer to give you reminders and give your desktop clock the old heave-ho.
What is your productivity challenge? What have you found that increases your productivity? Please leave me your comments below.
This post was originally published in 2013 and updated in 2021.