With social distancing guidelines in place, many professionals have no choice but to work remotely to help flatten the pandemic curve. It might not be ideal for some, while others may be work-from-home veterans. Some may have wanted to lose the commute for some time now and welcome this opportunity to show their boss they can be a productivity rock-star from their home office.
Working from home can be a challenge, however, for people who are not used to this arrangement. Aside from following a normal work routine, keeping a tidy workspace is essential for maximum productivity.
How clutter affects your work
Clutter refers to a collection of things that are out of place, not adding value, or are extra, or are no longer needed. Be it physical or digital, clutter and the process of getting rid of it can be extremely overwhelming, as we’ve gathered from our recent post answering your Instagram questions on organizing and productivity. At home, it’s hard to relax when there are objects strewn about where they shouldn’t be. When your home doubles as your workspace, that clutter can be even more distracting.
Recent news headlines are already upsetting, and we don’t need another reason to become overwhelmed. Distraction is one of the main reasons that it’s not ideal to work in an untidy environment. A cognitive study published on The Journal of Neuroscience clarifies why. The first sentence reads:
“Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout the visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”
Simply put, visual stimuli compete for your brain’s attention every day. As it happens, clutter is a visual stimulus — whether it’s a messy pile of paperwork, post-its stuck to your workstation, or unwashed mugs. All these objects are fighting for your attention, when you should be focusing on the tasks at hand. The more clutter you have, the harder it is to focus on one thing; research has shown that the human mind is not made to multitask.
If you’ve been thinking about clearing that desk clutter for some time, procrastinating about it produces feelings of guilt. It creates a nagging feeling, breeding stress in the process — an even bigger threat to productivity. Chaos caused by excessive documents on your laptop is clutter, too. This digital mess is even riskier, as Wired emphasizes that data can be stolen or hacked. Companies who fall victim to data breaches lose precious hours trying to recover from cyber attacks. This further obstructs employees’ ability to do their jobs properly.
In some cases, clutter is inescapable. It can be especially challenging if you don’t have a designated workspace in your home or if you live with others over whose things you don’t have control. This is why, even before state-wide lockdowns, some professionals without commercial office space utilized coworking spaces. These spaces provide a dedicated area for getting tasks done. We can learn from some of their principles how to set up an effective work from home space:
- Pay attention to detail. As noted by Industrious — the facilities are always kept clean and organized, and the aesthetic is conducive for working.
- Everything has a home. This kind of environment, where everything is already in place, allows remote teams or individuals to put their focus solely into their work.
- Create a space where you can minimize distraction.
Similarly, you can designate an area in your home and design it so that it’s more conducive to working. It’s best if you can choose an enclosed space or somewhere that’s not constantly interrupted by the hustle and bustle of human activity. Talk to your family members or housemates about your daily work schedule, so they won’t interfere with your tasks.
If you’re fortunate enough to have complete control of your surroundings, start by creating a list of things that you actually need on your desk. This will allow you to create a to-do list for how to declutter and where to begin. Psychologist Dr. David Cohen points out that to-do lists create a sense of accomplishment, that even the act of writing one down is already enough to get the ball rolling. If you have a physical or mental list of the things you need in order to work, then unnecessary objects will stand out on your desk. Decluttering can be very cathartic, and you can use this positive feeling to propel you in completing your daily tasks, even while on lockdown.
Schedule a free consultation
If you need professional advice to help you declutter and set up a productive home office, Simply Placed is here to help. Schedule a free consultation today.
Exclusively written for itssimplyplaced.com
By Jessa Bright