I am taking two weeks off from blogging. Enjoy this article from the archive! This article was originally published on 29 May 2007.
In this series, we are looking at small steps to reduce physical clutter to increase productivity. Today we are going to look at the desk space (or whatever you have) around your computer. We will take about 10 minutes to declutter.
(You don’t have 10 minutes? Bah. You can work it in.)
First, I want you to gather up all the loose pieces of paper you have lying around and put them in a pile on the floor. What’s left?
Most people will have a can of pencils/pens, maybe some office supplies, perhaps a filing system. Let’s look at each of these through the eyes of a de-clutterer.
Pencils and Pens
If you are ambidextrous, you might be able to write with more than one implement at a time. If not, you can use one. How many writing tools are within arms reach? Either you are going to have way too many, or none. If you don’t have any, skip this next part.
Look at your pencils, pens and highlighters. Are any pens dry? Do the highlighters work? Do the erasers on the pencils work? If you answered no to any of these questions, pitch them. For the remaining: ask yourself how many do you need?
Chances are you have a favorite pen and pencil and don’t use the rest. Take the rest and give them away. If you’re at work, put them back in the supply cabinet. If at home, donate them to a school or doctor’s office.
When I did this exercise at work, I was stunned to find how many highlighters had made their way to my desk. It was if they were breeding. I kept one of yellow and one pink and put the rest back in the supply cabinet.
How many staplers, hole punches and tape dispensers do you have at your desk? Do you use them every day? If you don’t, get them out of your visual field by stashing them in a drawer.
Getting rid of things on your desktop will give you more room to be productive.
David Allen recommends filing reference material away from where you work. I agree. Too much stuff on your desk will only clutter your mind with things that do not concern the task at hand. Before you stuff those files into a filing cabinet, though, go through them. Be merciless. If you have extra copies, outdated material or items that hold no meaning, recycle them. Then file the slimmed folders into your reference system.
Once you start doing this, you might be able to tackle the pile of papers you put on the floor. If you can, start purging them or filing them. Only keep close what you need to do your work now. Keeping the papers from other tasks will only cause your mind to stray off what it should be doing.
Congratulations! You have done the first step of decluttering.
Photo by libookperson