That Messy Desk Is Stressing You Out

In the home, desks are often the catch-all place where various odds-and-ends tend to accumulate. After all, what’s the big deal if your keys, gadgets, mail, scrap paper or spare change ends up on your workspace — you’ll sort it out later, right? But left unattended, those few stray items can quickly grow into a messy pile, which can be especially distracting when space is at a premium.

Clutter is a major cause of stress — and one that may be offsetting your ability to achieve work-life balance if you work from home. In fact, a nine-year study conducted by UCLA’s Center on the Everyday Lives Families (CELF), published in the book “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century,” found a clear link between clutter in the home and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

When stress levels rise, productivity drops. Consider the effect that a disorderly workspace has on your energy and motivation — or the time that you waste searching through the mess for a specific note or memo, or small misplaced items like eyeglasses or keys.

And yet, clutter is easily preventable. You can conquer it and keep it under control by making it part of your daily work routine.

Declutter Daily to Tame The Mess

Take a few minutes to tidy up your desk surface and remove any unnecessary items. Keep your current project and/or work materials easily accessible, but clear away everything else. If your workspace is limited, also put away any tools, gadgets or equipment that you don’t use on a daily basis. Do you really need that stapler, mail holder, file folders, notepads, cables and chargers, reference books, etc., sitting on your desk? Store it out of sight in a drawer, cabinet or storage bin until you actually need to use it.

An Ounce of Prevention

Schedule routine maintenance to keep clutter from recurring. Add it to your daily checklist, to-do list or task management app so that it becomes part of your regular work routine and not an optional housekeeping chore.

The last task of your workday — every day — should be to take 5 minutes to clear away, file, store or toss whatever is on your desk. Set aside time at the end of each project cycle to survey your space and purge it of paperwork and files that are no longer necessary — put it away, store it, shred it or throw it out.

A few minutes each day is all it takes to keep your desktop clutter under control — and it will save you much time (and stress) in the long run. Plus, you’ll be able to start the new workday with an efficient, energized outlook, and ready to focus on the task at hand.