How Clutter Affects Your Productivity

You want to be productive, to accomplish more, to do things faster, but with less effort.

Because when you’re able to do this, you have time to do all the other things you want to do in life. You can have more time for your family, for your friends, and for having fun.

You can enjoy all of this by learning how to better manage your time and tasks. It sounds simple and it can be. But, there’s actually something you need to do first. You need to optimize your environment so you can get better results. And, that typically means clearing the clutter.

Clutter prevents you from being productive.

Clutter is one of the biggest obstacles to accomplishing your goals. When you can’t find things, you waste time. When you’re constantly pulled off focus because your eyes are drawn to the big mound of dirty laundry, the stack of dusty books in the corner, or the empty coffee mugs on your desk, you automatically decrease your productivity.

Clutter takes a variety of forms.

Physical Clutter

Physical clutter is, by far, the most common and obvious type of clutter. You can see it. It takes up physical space. It can make it impossible to work or, if it’s really extreme, to move around your environment with ease. Everything from papers to client files, from stacks of books to your collection of gadgets — all of these things can be categorized as clutter.

Mental Clutter 

This can take the form of thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. They act as filters through which you interpret everything in life. These may be habitual ways of thinking that don’t serve you and which may be detrimental to your well-being, not to mention your relationships with others. These take a bit more effort to clear, but it can be done. Creating a more productive mindset, by processing and clearing false beliefs, is the foundation of the personal development movement.

As our lives are being transformed by bits and bytes, you now have to deal with digital clutter. One example is when you work with a dozen tabs open on your computer browser. There might be a reason why you need a few of them open, but more than likely, they’re creating more distraction and actually decreasing your productivity. Additional examples include a disorganized hard drive or cloud space, a messy computer desktop, or passwords that are scattered all over the place.

How does clutter make you feel?

We all know that serene feeling of gazing upon a simple garden or walking into a spotlessly clean room or office. It’s freeing, uplifting, and, most of all, inspiring. The environment feels spacious and calm, even if it’s a small space.

Similarly, we all know how the opposite feels. If you walk into a messy, cluttered home or office, it feels stressful, constricted, and can sometimes trigger feelings of anxiety. Our eyes are taking in a lot of visual stimuli which triggers our brain to try to make sense of it all.

Think about how your own clutter makes you feel. Do you feel like sitting at your desk? Are you excited to dive into your work to accomplish the tasks at hand? Do you feel calm, focused, and ready to make things happen?

If you have clutter in your midst, the answer is likely “no.” Relaxing is impossible. Clutter feels chaotic, heavy and burdensome. It pulls you in many directions as you try to find your focus. It’s a constant visual reminder that you haven’t handled something. It’s like a visual To Do List!

The good news is that you can clear the clutter. Whether you’re clearing mental, physical, or digital clutter, you’re in control. You can take daily actions to design an environment that feels good for you.

Take Action!

The next step — take action!

The first thing to do is to assess your mental, physical, and digital clutter. If you’re not quite ready to dive into clearing clutter, simply make a list of things you want to clear. It’s easiest to start with physical clutter. You’d be surprised how wonderful you can feel by taking focused action in this one area.

Once your list is complete, decide to focus on one thing only. To prevent feelings of overwhelm, start with one small area — maybe your work desk or your file cabinet (or even one drawer of a file cabinet).

Next, set a timer for 15 minutes and sort through everything very quickly, discarding anything that is old, outdated or no longer needed. Challenge yourself to repeat this process each day for 7 days — either within the same area or select a new one. If you can focus on this for longer than 15 minutes, go for it. Otherwise, limit yourself to short periods of time

The reason for short clutter clearing sessions is that it begins to surface emotions and create mental exhaustion. For some folks, it’s very uncomfortable to make decisions about keeping or discarding things. If you need assistance, consider enlisting the services of a professional organizer who can either coach you through the process or who can work alongside you to make the process easier.

Clutter doesn’t serve you. Rather, it stands in the way of everything you want to do. Once you understand how it affects you, you can make different choices. Take just one small action each day and see it change how you feel and your overall productivity. You’ll be happy you did!

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