Clutter is the enemy of productivity.

Yet, moving things around your office is not always the best way to clear your head or spur some fresh thinking. Fortunately, I've learned a few tricks to help me work more efficiently. They are "tricks" because they help me get into the right mindframe. They have the initial benefit of tidying up but the major benefit of making me more open to ideas, more set on getting things done, and a bit more level-headed.

1. Get into the habit of removing junk

One of the great inhibitors to productivity is junk laying around the office. There's an interesting mental shift that occurs when you remove it. Your brain doesn't have to deal with as much complexity. Also, the act of removing stuff sets the tone for your day. Maybe you will also write more clearly or finally get to inbox zero. (Just donate the junk and avoid filling up landfills.)

2. Buy one of these organizers

When you're feeling unorganized, try putting things into their proper place. To do that, you need a way to keep your stuff organized (if you haven't thrown it out like I just recommended). Take a quick look around your office right now. If anything is "sitting out" consider adding some more shelving like this storage unit or this shelving cart. They work wonders. Make sure everything you have in your office has a place to rest.

3. Swap out your desk

The act of swapping out a desk has a cleansing effect, even if it is more time-consuming than just removing some clutter. First, it forces you to reorganize and think about what you really need on your desk. Second, the new furniture will inspire you to work harder. (The old desk is probably a bit coffee-stained anyway.) I like this new Teknion Upstage model just because it looks cool, which is more important than you might think.

4. Open up some space

I'm using this trick right now. In your office, try opening up some free space and leave it that way. It's almost like white space in an advertisement or a brochure. Your mind will become more relaxed as though you are able to fill that physical space with new ideas. As an extreme example, I once removed everything from my office except a desk and chair, a laptop, mouse, and keyboard, and (of course) some speakers. I swear I worked smarter.

5. Declutter your virtual desktop

If you're like me, you tend to accumulate extra apps on your phone, tablet, and laptop. Try removing the ones you don't need and get everything all trimmed down. This works for the main screen of the device and your collection of apps. Virtual decluttering helps motivate you to think clearer. As an extra step, go through your contact list and clean that up, too, to see if it helps. Get to the point where you feel digital decluttered.

6. Clean up the dirt

You have removed junk, organized the stuff you actually need, and decluttered your office. One last step is to do some extra cleaning. A good wipe of any stains on your desk, vacuuming the carpet, and dusting has a big impact on your state of mind as well. But that's a bit too obvious, right? Here's my trick. As you do, be conscious of the fact that you are doing this to help motivate yourself to work more efficiently. Think about how this gives you a fresh start. Link the dirt cleaning to a need for more productivity.

Published on: Oct 21, 2015