Posted by Glenn Gibson
I’m the first to admit that my workspace isn’t always pristine. Despite my best efforts, clutter on my desk is about as predictable as the sunrise.
I do my best to stay on top of it, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand. Files pile up, coffee cups congregate and stationery seems to multiply at a rapid rate across the expanse of my desk.
It’s usually at this point I start to feel a little anxious. I’m less able to concentrate on tasks and I find focusing my attention increasingly difficult. But it seems I’m not alone.
It’s a problem in workplaces across Australia, yet the solution could be surprisingly simple: developing a strategy to declutter our desks.
Far from being a personality quirk, many researchers believe that cluttering, or ‘hoarding’ has an evolutionary grounding, designed to protect ourselves from scarcity. While having stockpiles of food would have been useful for our primitive ancestors - applying that trait to paperwork in the office does not serve us well.
The science of clutter
Interestingly, researchers at Yale recently identified that the two areas in our brains associated with pain, the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, activate in response to throwing out items we own and feel a connection towards.
To put that in perspective, these are the areas of the brain responsible for the powerful cravings among smokers or drug addicts experience when trying to quit. In simple terms our brain associates the loss of possessions as something that causes us physical pain.
When it comes to decluttering we are facing an uphill battle against our own biology and genetic hard-wiring. But it’s a battle we can win. Here’s how:
Try to make re-organising, cleaning and decluttering your desk a ritual you complete each evening before rushing out the door. It allows you to leave the office with a sense of calm, and walk back in the next day able to focus on important tasks and the job ahead without wasting mental energy on inane jobs such as finding your notepad and a working pen.
An entire desk coupled with shelving, cabinets and endless storage options is a recipe for incessant hoarding. Not only does it create clutter, but it allows you to put off difficult decisions around scanning those files and documents, or throwing them away altogether. By limiting your work and personal items to a specific location on your desk, or an allocated number of drawers, it can help you prioritise the items that are truly essential and do-away with items that are just taking up space.
Emails, phone calls, text messages and an endless stream of social media notifications distract the brain and demand our attention. But how much of it is truly urgent? Simple tasks such as clearing your desktop of files each day and turning off your phone and email at allocated times to concentrate on important tasks is both empowering, and a useful way to manage the e-clutter that crowds our daily lives.
Commit to a regular decluttering session and set aside time in your calendar. If you know your productivity power hours, you can schedule some decluttering down time around them. For me, it’s typically Friday afternoons. By that time I’m usually mentally spent and my creative juices have run dry. Instead of procrastinating or distracting myself until the clock ticks over to 5pm, I spend time cleaning my office, clearing my desk and organising my files - both hard copy and electronic. It’s a task that doesn’t require a lot of mental energy, but helps me end the week with a sense of accomplishment and allows me to return again on Monday morning with the peace of mind that I’m organised and ready to work again.
We live in an age where we have access to devices and apps all designed to make our lives easier. My advice? Use them! Fuji Xerox alone offers a range of multifunction devices and scanning solutions that take the hassle out of paperwork and storage and helps you declutter the office.
The DocuMate 3220 for example is a next generation duplex scanning solution that uses OneTouch software to streamline the scanning and storage process, allowing you to scan, save and create searchable documents at the click of a button. Using new technology and powerful devices could be the key to getting that clutter off your desk, and allowing you to concentrate on work again.
Download this ebook to learn more about digital solutions that will help you better organise and manage your office paperwork and workflows.