Have you taken a good look around your work space lately? Have your found yourself wandering to other spots when you need to think through a project or take an important call? Is there a feeling of unease when you sit down for the day ahead?
Most of us spend a huge amount of our lives in a work space - whether it's a cubicle, corner office, or the converted guest bedroom. While we recognize the importance of a clear and pleasing home atmosphere (regardless of our commitment to maintain it that way), we often neglect our working area. The papers, files, mail, and random items pile up. It's a utilitarian spot, not where you should be relaxing (or even having fun), right? But it makes sense that a location where we spend so much time should be a good place to hang.
I regularly see three primary reasons why workplace clutter takes over:
Each one of these scenarios is based upon faulty thinking. Here's why:
If you think you don't have time, you're not factoring in what being cluttered and disorganized actually costs you. The average worker spends about 38 hours a year looking for lost or misplaced items* (and I personally think that's a conservative number). Multiply that by your hourly rate, or by the amount you could have made by using that time to pull in a new client or come up with a new, creative idea. Think about, too, whether or not you've completely lost something that you ended up spending money on to replace. Consider how much time you've had to spend training a new team member because things in the office were not clear, organized, and obvious. Taking time to clear your clutter should ultimately save you more money and time, not lose it.
As for fear, can we at least agree that status quo can be a dangerous thing? If you're concerned about finding things, perhaps a little creative labeling, clear containers, and color-coding would help? If your company has a document retention policy, take a look at it and see what the options are for storing excess paperwork. If you're intimidated about where to start, enlisting the help of an assistant or organizer to help come up with an action plan can take some of the burden off. And if you're still afraid of the results, I have to wonder - perhaps you're also afraid of success (a topic for another post)?
Finally, for my self-righteously cluttered friends — if you're proud of your excess stuff, could that maybe be just a defense mechanism? Deep down, do you really like being the company Pig Pen? Overhearing the whispers, the giggles (the muttered curses)? If you work on your own, perhaps there's really no one else to hold you accountable. A shift in thinking — from being proud of the mess to being proud of your actual accomplishments — is in order. So clear the desk, and take a little additional time to display that recognition certificate or award. Or a photo that represents who or why you do what you do. Or make a list of the long term goals, print it out, and hang that on the white board.
Excess clutter is not productive. Although your personal tipping point may vary from others', it still makes sense to take stock of whether a mess is holding you back.
*Brother International Corporation White Paper. "The Costs Associated With Disorganization", 2010.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?