If work is being hampered by time spent looking for stuff on your desk, then it could be time you did something about it. Chances are, if your desk is cluttered so is your life. If a trip to the therapist, or a meditation retreat in India isn’t on the cards, project ‘desk’ might be just the ticket to change things up a little. Regaining control of your desk may do more than you think.

It’s never easy to admit you’ve become the ultimate slob. Piles of papers, pens without lids, lids without pens, straypaperclips, coffee cups – the list goes on. The biscuit crumbs, coffee stains and errant oddities from your lunch box pale into insignificance. If you’re honest with yourself there are probably other aspects of your life that could do with a serious review, but you pride yourself in your ‘head in a bucket of sand’ approach.
It can feel overwhelming to ditch old habits, and reviewing relationships, finances and suchlike may not be something you want to contemplate right now (or maybe ever actually!). The good news is, avoiding the therapist doesn’t mean you can’t clear some mental space. A desk declutter is a great way to get started, suggests Mike James – a writer working with staff management specialist Planday.

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3 reasons why you should declutter your desk now

1. Less distraction, more focus
From the post-it notes around your screen reminding you to ‘pay the cleaner’, ‘buy milk on the way home’ and ‘pick up the kids’ to the food remnants on your desk reminding you how hungry you are – they are all distractions. Getting rid of distractions will help you to focus, and that includes removing unnecessary icons from your desktop. If you’re less distracted, you’ll be more focused on the task in hand.


2. Better decision-making skills
No one makes the right decision 100% of the time, but good decision makers are people who can make efficient, well-informed choices, and can quickly respond on occasions when things go wrong. When your thoughts are ping-ponging from one post-it note to the next it creates an underlying anxiety. Anxiety and fear get in the way of making decisions, just like the distracting clutter on your desk.


3. You’ll feel less tired
Research shows that people with cluttered homes experience increased exhaustion as a result of using mental energy on stress caused by a messy environment. Sitting at a messy desk all day every day will be affecting your stress levels, even though you may not realise it. Clear some space and watch your energy levels rise.

Also see: 13 Tips for a Clean, Clutter-Free Office

5 easy steps to declutter your desk

1. Schedule it
There’s no point acknowledging the slob in you has been getting out of control, but doing nothing about it. Simply acknowledging the problem means you are ready to take back control of your desk, and there’s no point saying you’ll do it tomorrow. If you know that deadlines are getting close, quite frankly decluttering won’t be on the agenda unless you’ve scheduled it. Schedule at least 30 minutes the next day. Making an appointment with yourself, shows you mean business.


2. Reduce your desk space items
Getting rid of unnecessary items on your desk is a good idea if you want to maintain a clear desk. If it’s not essential, remove it permanently. That includes photos, calendars, books, food supplies and excess stationery. Keep your bare essential stationery in a desk drawer or a desk tidy if it’s a workspace without storage. A desk tidy isn’t cheating by the way. It’s the new tidy you.


3. Invest in organisation tools
As you start to clear up the mess, you’ll probably notice the need for some folders, boxes and other desk storage solutions to keep things more organised. Even a shelf might be a good idea to keep resources close by, but off your desk.


4. Tackle the paperwork
Paperwork, ‘shmakerwork’! Isn’t it high time you had a paperless workflow? Reassess your work practices and see if now is a good time to start streamlining some of your processes. If there’s still a need for paperwork after that, get yourself an inbox and organise paperwork into due dates with the most urgent on top.


5. Control your cables
A desk declutter is the perfect time to get rid of the rats nest of cables spewing from your computer and underneath your desk. No more kicking them out of the way, or getting your gym bag tangled in them. There are loads of solutions from cable ties to floor safety covers. Take the time to label plugs so you know which socket belongs to each device. It’s immensely satisfying when something goes wrong and you don’t have to spend half an hour untangling spaghetti junction.


Decluttering is the fastest growing self-help tool, so if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t you? It may do more than you think.