5 Tips to a Healthy Workspace - Less is More

5 tips declutter less is more Sep 20, 2019

In our, Less is More series we teach about decluttering as one of the series topics.  Here are 5 tips to help get started as we regain our workspace toward a more productive state.  

“Ok, my desk is a mess and I feel overwhelmed. I feel that I have so much to do and no plan of attack to do it.  My head hurts.  Hang on; I have a phone call.  Ok, where was I?  Oh yes, getting my desk cleaned off with all this stuff piling up around me.  But before I start cleaning, I need to print these documents.  They may help me with the next support call I get.  Uh-oh, another call.  Nowhere did I put that troubleshooting chart?  Now I am getting frustrated and this person is starting to yell at me.  I can’t find anything on this desk.  Time to put them on hold while I search.  Oops, they hung up on me.  Perhaps when they call back someone else will get them and I won’t have to listen to their griping again.” 


Does this sound like anyone you know?  Those of us in the technology field have experienced this at some point in our professional careers.  It is called “clutter,” and it can be very disorganizing and lead to disastrous results in both our lives and careers.  However, “clutter” is easy to overcome with the Less is More mindset. 

Now being a minimalist is not be for everyone.  Although I highly recommend it if you are willing to try.  Using a more simplistic approach can often give far better control of the parts of our lives that appear totally out of control. Getting better organized with less clutter around is a great place to start when we want to improve our job and life satisfaction. 

So, what is the “Less is More Mindset”?  At first, I thought I just needed increased self-discipline.  But then, I discovered that I was also lacking some essential tools and processes in not only cleaning all the clutter but keeping clutter under control.  It is more than just keeping a clean desk.  It is more than just being organized in my daily work habits.  The Less is More Mindset is all about making spot decisions and choices that keep me both organized and clutter-free.  There was an emotional and mental side to decluttering that I was missing. 

Ok, here are 5 tips about the Less is More Mindset to consider and to start us on our journey.  These 5 tips will help stay the course in our work lives:


1. Adopt a “One thing in, One thing out” rule. 

If you are living a minimalist lifestyle, then this rule is very familiar to you.  For anyone thing that comes home, another thing must go out.  Retail therapy is a great way to relax and we all like to buy stuff.  Over time all that stuff accumulates and squeezes our space to the point of becoming uncomfortable.  Hence, the birth of the minimalist lifestyle where we seriously de-junk our homes and gain more breathing room.  So why are our workspaces junked up too? 

The answer may be that it is easier to get rid of knick-knacks and old purchases than important papers and future work from our desks.  The very first thing I notice on my desk is the pile of diagrams and customer documents that should have been filed away or scanned electronically.  Start here.  Get those old project papers off your desk and into the shredder.  You may not need them anymore. Especially if the project you are working on has progressed past the need for that information.  Think about electronically storing these papers somewhere on a file server or shared drive. 

Remember that if another project update lands on your desk, you must throw out (or shred) the old update right away.  If a customer drawing lands on your desk, then seriously consider scanning it into a secure file share or on-line storage.  Never keep sensitive documents on your desk “for later.”    

2. Don’t let sentiment hold you back

Ok, so we are all emotional creatures.  We have feelings, and we love things around us that remind us of great times and sandy beaches and …

Wait a second, what is all that stuff on your desk reminding you of?  Vacation photos?  Funny memes? A secret copy of “How to torture your boss into giving you a raise.”  That excellent banana nut muffin you had for breakfast this morning.  What about that work you have been putting off for so long that your boss has quit bugging you about it? 

Many of us love to have things around to remind us of specific times or feelings or wants.  However, if you are trying to keep a clutter-free environment, this can be challenging.  It is ok to keep these cherished items, but consider these thoughts:

  1. Is this item adding to any negative emotions or thoughts about my job or company?
  2. If I get rid of it, will my perspective change for my job?
  3. Will my perspective change about my customers?

You don’t want to create a supercharged negative atmosphere, or no matter what you do, you will be unhappy with your job.  Taking a Pollyanna approach can be artificial and is not natural for anyone.  But somewhere in-between is our sweet spot for becoming more effective in our work and achieving greater job satisfaction.  If you must have sentimental things on your desk, then always go the positive that reinforces your self-esteem and self-worth.  Anything to boost your attitude should be very welcome.  Keeping your workspace clean will help. 


3. Don’t let wires and cords get in your way

Look under your feet.  Are there any wires or cords lying on the floor under you?  What about on top of your desk?  Is your phone cord getting in the way or are you continually tripping on something under your desk?  It is time to get these cleaned up and organized.  Find some Velcro wire wraps and neaten the wires as much as you can.  Push the desktop wires to the edge and place your phone in a more desired position.  Keep any unnecessary cords stored away.  This will help both your mental and emotional energy when you see a neat desk that is not a wiring hazard. Watch for any frayed electrical cords or unsafe power strips and replace them as necessary. 


4. Check your drawers

I am always amazed at the number of pens and pencils I find in any one drawer.  Why is it we never seem to have anything to write with, yet the pens and pencils outnumber the paperclips in my drawer?  I am also going to start my own rubber band collection, and someday thousands will flock from all over just to admire it.  How about all those old project reports and papers from long ago that accumulated over time. 

Clutter can be hidden, but not for long.  It will always come back to haunt us just as our boss is looking over our shoulder while impatiently waiting for the most recent project update.  There are 52 pens in that top drawer, but only three of them can write.  As our customer quickly blabbers their case, we have nothing to write with and cannot remember what they said. 

I know some of those old writing quills are very sentimental, but after the ink dries, they just make some pretty feathers.  Try using one or two good pens instead.  Your coworker who has the 52 pens that won’t write can borrow from someone else. 

Keeping the file drawers cleaned out is just as important as maintaining the papers on the top of your desk.  Remember that if you also apply the “one thing in – one thing out” rule, you will have to rid yourself of the old reports and papers that are of no use anymore. 


5.  Chose “the important over the urgent”

What is a crucial element to keeping better organized and less clutter?  Priority.  You may ask yourself if something is essential or not.  Often in working with professional clients I discover the papers and things on their desks are past urgencies that became non-important as the need for them quickly diminished.  For example, you are asked for an update and you print a report to give that update.  But the report then lives on your desk months later.  The need is gone, and the paper is just more “clutter” that occasionally surfaces in the growing pile of other reports and documents.  Instead of helping you feel accomplished, the opposite effect takes place.  Your mental and emotional energy is drained, and you become overwhelmed again. 


Having less in your workspace =  more time and energy doing the important

Want to know more?  Check out our Less is More series at https://TRBCoaching.com .  We coach and train great workers with better habits for total job satisfaction. 


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