How Proper Tidying Up Makes You More Productive

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How Proper Tidying Up Makes You More Productive

If you carry too much baggage with you, you can hinder success at work.

Paul Knulst  in  Productivity Jan 15, 2024 4 min read


More than 1,453 unread emails in the inbox, 25 unread letters on the desk, and the to-do list is actually just getting longer and not shorter....

If this sounds familiar, you've probably often thought:

"Today I'm finally tidying up!"

Honestly, who doesn't want to have order in their head and be organized through their everyday working lives? No more redundant reminders about things that you will never do anyway (and actually don't want to), and no more notes with the names of people you will never meet to discuss possible collaboration.

It would be nice. And now I have some good news: This is possible, even for the most chaotic people. Starting a new year in particular is always a suitable period for this because it signals a new beginning. So it's best to update your email inbox again, collect and throw away old paper, and re-create the contact register.

In the book "Joy at Work" (Link to Amazon) which I read recently, the tidying expert Marie Kondō, who lives in the USA, discussed some studies that showed that people are quickly overwhelmed by clutter and are less likely to take the initiative.

Free your desk

Many people think that freeing their dek would make them less productive, because they always have to search for everything, and piling up tasks could impair their decision-making ability. Also, if you get the feeling of losing control, you will become dissatisfied and unhappy - even with your work.

Cleanliness is next to Godliness
- John Wesley

But how is it possible to thoroughly free their home office of ballast?

First of all, you need to look and think about "What does their own desk actually look like?". Everyone should analyze exactly how many pens, pads, clips, and other office supplies are lying around on the desk. The next step would be to remove all those things from the table that are not needed in the daily routine. In the end, there may only be a few pens (maybe one), a pad, a laptop, and almost nothing else on the table.

On your desk, a hodgepodge of personal items that are not intended for work should be removed and put out of sight. Because of this, you should get rid of your car keys, sunglasses, mobile phone, and other knick-knacks. It is best to put discarded items in various transparent bags and store them in a drawer. This means they don't have to be thrown away immediately, but they don't distract.

What else optimizes Productivity?

The next thing would be documents which can be found in your office.

Decide honestly:

  • Which files can disappear?
  • Should there really be that amount of notes?
  • Do you have unused Post-Its that can be removed?
  • Remove empty or necessary papers from notepads and keep them.

Now, after optimizing the documents you have to think about how to manage and ensure that everything isn't scattered around confusingly after some weeks (again...). A possible solution would be that everything needs its own place. Scissors are always in a specific drawer, books should be put on a shelf. The only things that specifically help with work should find their way into the workplace.

The same applies to the email inbox. Categorized folders and color coding for emails can help. It's best to unsubscribe immediately from newsletters that you haven't read for months.

Order In The Head

New year, new order? Then it's best to remove not only objects on your desk but also your mental baggage.

To do this you can visualize and write down what steals energy from you and what gives you strength. While doing this it is really important to be very specific. For example, not just identifying "the colleagues" as energy-consuming, but also describing exactly what topics are at stake and which behavior of these people leads to stress.

Then it comes to action: some contacts are better to part with, and some unpleasant tasks may not be that necessary at all. Additionally, you should try to resolve any conflict that still exists. Do not carry them along, try to solve them, or throw them in an imaginary trash can. If you still haven't solved a problem after thinking about it three times, you should actively work on a solution.

Otherwise, performance could suffer and you could feel blocked at work.

Closing Notes

I personally think that tidying up is very important to be productive. With a messy desk or a messy mind you never will reach your full potential. Not cleaning up can be a daunting and self-limiting habit that traps everyone in negative thought spirals. This will hinder personal growth and block rational thinking.

However, not only the end of the year, but also the end of every month is suitable for a self-check. Think about what concerns you and how you can resolve your inner conflicts. Handle your mind, your desk, your office place like an old-school memory card. No matter how big it is, at some point, it's just full. And there is no cloud for your thoughts and problems (yet).

Keep in mind: Clearing out also means - more likely in the home office - that you don't always have to see the work in front of you and can therefore better differentiate yourself more easily.

What do you think about the topic? Are you someone who cleans up often? What consequences has it had for you in the past to tidy up your desk? Is there anything else you want to add? Also, do you have any questions?

I would love to hear your feedback, and your thoughts and answer all your questions. Please share everything in the comments.

Feel free to connect with me on Medium, LinkedIn, Twitter, and GitHub.

Thank you for reading, and Now Start Tidying Up! β›”πŸ§ β›”πŸ§ 


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By Paul Knulst

I'm a husband, dad, lifelong learner, tech lover, and Senior Engineer working as a Tech Lead. I write about projects and challenges in IT.