Management & Leadership Advice

If your workspace is a disaster, you might think you’re in good company. After all, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs all had messy desks.  

But did you know? Multiple studies show a clean and organized space can be beneficial for your brain. Here are three positive results of keeping things tidy. 

Increase Productivity

A messy desk can make you less efficient. This probably sounds like common sense. After all, constantly needing to clear a place to work, accidentally throwing out things you need and rummaging around for missing files all take up your time. A recent study claims “the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for paper.” (Inc. Magazine, 2017).  

Improve Focus

Physical clutter competes for your attention and interferes with your ability to complete tasks. In a study at Harvard University, researchers randomly showed 100 undergraduates either a tidy or cluttered workspace. Then, they gave each student a puzzle to solve. Those students who saw the neat environment stuck with the task 1.5 times longer than those who saw the messy room. (Harvard Business Review, 2015)  

Reduce Stress

Disorganized spaces overload your senses and deplete your mental resources. For most people, this leads to anxiety and stressFor example, a 2010 study used linguistic analysis software to measure how 60 women spoke about their homesThose who described their living spaces as “cluttered” had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.” (Psychology Today, 2016) 

Top Tips for Keeping Your Workspace Neat

Dump the Clutter

Inevitably, our work areas become filled with things we don’t need. Try to clear off your desk at the end of each day. And, reevaluate larger spaces such as bookshelves every few months. If you haven’t used something in over year, consider either donating it or throwing it away.  

Start Small

If you have a large, built-up mess, you may feel overwhelmed. But not dealing with the problem creates a vicious cycle of more clutter and less productivity. Begin by setting aside 10 minutes each day to clean or start by tackling one small area such as a single desk drawer. A little bit of progress could be all the encouragement you need to keep going. 

Remember, It’s All Relative

While some people don’t want anything on their desk but their computer; others like having some papers, photographs and other decorations lying around. Everyone is different. What’s messy to one person may seem neat to another. There are even some studies showing clutter increases creativity. (Inc. Magazine, 2017) So, spend some time evaluating the tidiness of your workspace, and then determine the right amount of organization for you.    

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