Many people look for ways to boost their productivity. After all, productive people get more done in less time — often with better results. While you can find many techniques to help improve your productivity, you might overlook the power of removing the clutter from your life. Yes, clutter can impact how you work and your attitude toward your work.
Read on for eight ways clutter can negatively impact your productivity.
1. It Distracts You
Human brains only have so much capacity to process information. While the used coffee cups and stacks of books on your desk may seem trivial, their mere presence competes for your attention — whether you realize it or not. When too many visual stimuli fight for your attention at the same time, you may find it impossible to focus on the task at hand. Moreover, the quality of your work will suffer when you don’t give those tasks your full attention.
Make a point of decluttering your workspace before you start any major project so you can fully focus on what really matters.
2. It Quashes Your Motivation
Clutter can make you feel as if things are spiraling out of your control. When clutter surrounds you all of the time, you may start thinking you’re not competent or good enough. Furthermore, this loss of motivation means you can no longer give 100 percent of your effort to the tasks in front of you.
Your workspace should inspire you to work better instead of dragging you down.
3. It Saps Your Creativity
Some people say clutter is a sign of creativity. While that may be true in a few cases, it’s not the same for everyone. For many people, clutter can overwhelm their mind and lower their ability to think clearly or brainstorm.
Importantly, the clutter sapping your creativity may not have a physical form. Mental clutter, such as lists and information, also can crowd your mind, leaving you with no empty space for creative thinking. Doing a brain dump or writing a to-do list every morning can help you clear your mental clutter so you can work more creatively and productively.
4. It Wastes Your Time
Clutter can make it difficult for you to find the items or information you need, wasting a lot of your time as you search for an important document or tool. Ultimately, this can leave you without enough time for other, more productive activities. In fact, an average employee may waste up to $4,800 worth of time per year just looking for “stuff.” By tackling the clutter in your workspace, you can improve your productivity as well as your company’s bottom line.
5. It Causes Stress and Anxiety
Clutter can cause stress and anxiety, especially among women. In fact, a 2010 study of dual-income married couples with at least one child found that women who felt they lived in cluttered or poorly organized homes had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol throughout the day. Conversely, participants who didn’t think they had a clutter problem experienced a drop in cortisol levels during the day.
So why does clutter cause so much stress and anxiety? Messy homes and workspaces can bombard your senses in the same way multitasking can overwhelm your brain. The feeling that your work is never done stays in the back of your mind alongside a nagging worry about how others judge you. This can negatively affect your mood as well as cause frustration and discontent, which together may lead to a very unproductive day at work.
6. It Works Hand in Hand With Procrastination
Clutter is closely related to procrastination. Most often, clutter stems from leaving things to do for later — maybe because they’re inconvenient, difficult, or less interesting than something else. Yet, if left unchecked, this procrastination habit may start to reflect poorly on all areas of your life.
Actively changing the way you approach tasks can go a long way in tackling both problems. Make a point of following the “two-minute” rule at work as well as home. If something takes only two minutes to complete, do it right then instead of leaving it for later. This approach can help you reduce both mental and physical clutter while enabling you to accomplish more in less time.
7. It Lowers Your Confidence
A messy, unorganized work desk can send the wrong signals to your colleagues. Some may comment on your laziness or low work ethic while others may even stop relying on you for important projects because your organizational skills don’t inspire trust. Ultimately, this can hinder your growth at work and lower your confidence level.
8. It Affects Your Physical Health
Clutter has the power to negatively impact your physical health as well. For example, a cluttered workspace or home provides a breeding ground for germs that can make you fall ill more frequently. Clutter also gathers dust, which can cause allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
Your recent weight gain might represent yet another indirect result of clutter. Clutter leads to stress, and many people find comfort in food when they experience a stressful situation. That can throw your diet into complete disarray.
While it may seem difficult at times, it’s possible to eliminate clutter from your life — whether mental, physical, or digital. If you start to notice clutter impacting how you work and your productivity, consider taking action. Our series of articles on decluttering your home and your workspace provide a good starting point. Removing the energy-sucking clutter from your environment not only will help boost your productivity, but also allow you to feel good about yourself.