Clean Up To Be More Effective

“I work better in chaos.” “I can find anything I need on my desk, just ask me.” “I’ll clean off my desk tomorrow. I’m too busy today.” I’ve heard so many people with so many excuses as to why their desks are a disaster zone. I have also heard, and seen, computer desktops that are a disaster zone. I mean, really, why do you need so many icons on your desktop that you can’t see the background image? Set up folders for Pete’s sake!

Clean up to be more effective

While you don’t have to operate in a sterile environment, is there a reason you can’t set up a filing system for papers on your desk? Is there a reason you don’t have folders on your desktop to hold those many icons or word docs or pdfs or whatever is cluttering it up?

Is there any reason you can’t take five minutes a day to do a quick desk clean up? After a few days of five minutes a day, you will be able to see the top of your desk and your work life will be less chaotic.

I truly believe that desk cleanliness will lead to heightened effectiveness, efficiency and productivity.

Regardless of what you do for a living, you want to be productive and effective, right? If you want to soar to higher levels of effectiveness take these steps:

A well-kept work area. As a semi germaphobe I want my desktop surfaces cleaned up because of germs and dust mites and whatever other critters may be rambling around if it was a mess. If you have allergies, a desk stacked high with paperwork can make those worse.

Let’s put germs aside, though, and focus on the idea that if you tidy up your desk and your workspace you will be in a better frame of mind to focus on the tasks at hand. The fewer physical distractions you have the more focused you will be.

A Harvard study found that “people who worked in cluttered enviornments worked steadily for 11 minutes, while people who worked in uncluttered environments stayed focused for 18.5 minutes.” An extra seven minutes of focus — that seems pretty great, right?

Prioritize desktop — physical and virtual — cleanliness

Look at your desk. Is it piled high with files, paperwork and other detritus?

Let’s Marie Kondo that desktop.

Take EVERYTHING off your desk, put it on the floor or other surface so you can sort through it item by item with an eye toward filing it or tossing it. Before you put anything back onto your desk, clean the desktop thoroughly. Get rid of dust bunnies.

Step back and look at that clean, sparklingly clear desktop surface. Looks great, doesn’t it?

If you can’t devote an entire day to the desk clean up, set aside at least thirty-minutes a day until it’s taken care of. It may take you a few days to weed through everything, and that’s all right, especially if it leaves you with a clean desktop at the end of the week.

Now what?


Now that you’ve filed or tossed every item that was on your desk, you need to keep up with the clean up regularly. Set aside time every day, at the end of the day, to make certain the desk top is cleaned and maintained. Before you leave work — whether you work at home or in a cube farm — to clear the decks. When you walk into the office the next day your brain will thank you for allowing it to start work in a clean environment.

I truly believe a clean workspace will be one of the biggest things you can do for yourself this year to be more efficient and effective.

Show me your messy desk; then show me what it looks like clean. I’d love to know how the clean up went and how much more productive you feel once it’s done.