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How Clutter Affects your Productivity

Welcome to the second post in the series Living a Clutter-Free Life. Last week I talked about how clutter impacts your mental health. In this blog post I’m going to share the negative impact clutter has on your productivity.

Messy and disorganized spaces can have a negative effect on a person’s ability to concentrate and process information. According to a study done by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute:

“The capacity of the visual system to process information about multiple objects at any given moment in time is limited. Multiple stimuli have been shown to compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked neural activity throughout visual cortex.” (McMains & Kastner, 2011).

In other words: too much stuff, cluttered in the environment, can limit the brain’s ability to focus and process information. The brain is not comfortable when there’s a lot going on around it. Instead of focusing on the single task at hand, thoughts shift between the messy surroundings. This interferes with productivity and efficiency since there’s an impeding need to clear the clutter but also trying to concentrate on work.

Having a cluttered office or workspace can negatively impact your productivity in many ways because it:

  1. Decreases performance.

  2. Increases stress.

  3. Overloads the senses.

  4. Produces a constant feeling of unease.

  5. Impairs the ability to think creatively.

  6. Slows the capability to switch between assignments.

  7. Consumes valuable time spent trying to find things.

Now that I’ve highlighted the negative effects of clutter in productivity, it’s time to take action. Look around your workspace and get real with yourself. Assess the situation and tackle the problem. The amount of time and effort you’ll invest highly depends on how much mess you have.

Below are some suggestions on how to eliminate the clutter around the workspace. I want to point out that clutter doesn’t only manifest in a physical setting. It can also take form in both a digital context and a mental one.

Physical Clutter

  • Organize papers and notes: (file, shred, and throw away as needed).

  • Clean out your messy drawers.

  • Throw away stationery you no longer need or use or is not functioning.

  • Sort through your Post-it notes and discard what’s no longer relevant.

  • Organize all electronic cables and chargers.

  • Pick up trash and empty bin by the end of the day.

  • Create a filing and document storage system: use trays, boards, filing cabinets.

Digital Clutter

  • Go through your computer files and delete any old or duplicates.

  • Sort out all your emails: (delete spam, create folders to classify important ones, answer urgent emails, empty bin).

  • Remove all files and shortcuts to avoid a messy desktop.

  • Organize different files in separate folders.

  • Organize your browser: remove bookmarks you no longer use and create folders to organize others by categories.

Mental Clutter

  • Take 5 minutes every day to write down all your ideas and thoughts in a clean page. I like using the Strikethrough method. Read my post about how I plan my days and download the free planner.

  • Jot down all appointments and add them to your calendar app. I use Google Calendar to keep track of my appointments. (Download on Android or iOS )

  • Get a daily planner to stay on top of things and plan your days. It’s good to write down things for easy access and to help remember them.

Use these suggestions to organize your work environment. After you’re done classifying and sorting things out, it’s important to wipe your desk area and cabinets, take out the trash, and vacuum the floor.

After following a decluttering process, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you’ll be excited to spend time in your office. In no time you’ll see an improvement in your focus and productivity.

Everything that you keep around you will affect your energy, so never underestimate the power of letting go of the things that no longer serve you.

-Lucy Crane-

Next week, I’ll be sharing the last post of this series where I give you some strategies and tips on how to tackle the clutter in your life as well as a free e-book with steps, checklists and planning outlines to help and motivate you to get started and actually finish your decluttering project.

Thank you for reading this post. Let me know in the comments down below how you deal with clutter and if you’ve become aware of how it negatively impacts your productivity. Like and share this post if you found it useful or think it can help someone else.

Until next time.

Gabriela Fernández

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