How Being a Minimalist at Work Improves Productivity
Is your desk full of books, papers, print-outs, coffee cups, breakfast bowls, folders, stationery, etc.?
Does your computer desktop have hundreds of icons and files littering it?
Do you have to scroll up and down to see all of your emails?
You could probably benefit from being a minimalist at work and see an increase in productivity and decrease in stress!
Clutter, Stress and Depression
Dr Sherrie Carter (PSY. D.) states that “clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, tactile, auditory, etc.) causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren’t necessary or important.”
- Distracts us from what we need to focus on
- Makes relaxation more difficult
- Signals to our brains that our work is never done
- Creates feelings of guilt (“I should be more organised”) and embarrassment, especially when others unexpectedly drop by our homes or work spaces.
- Invades the open spaces that allow us to think, brain-storm and problem solve – inhibiting creativity and productivity.
- Makes it more difficult to find things quickly and easily, increasing stress and frustration.
The Work is Never Done
My to-do lists only ever have 5 items on them, and I write them new every day.
Long to-do lists signal to our brains that our work is never done, and is never going to be done, increasing stress.
It’s also more difficult to decide what to work on – as we have too much choice. Going through all the items and deciding what to work on can be a difficult task in itself. By having a shorter to do list it is easier to stick to the important tasks.
Your Most Important Task is likely the thing on your to-do list that has been shunted from one list to another the most number of times and you have a considerable bit of anxiety or discomfort over.
Write that item at the top of your list and work on it until it is done. It’s usually just getting started that is the most difficult thing, so we work on something else on the list that is easier or more appealing. Once the task is crossed off, it creates mental space that fosters more productivity!
Create Open Spaces
Many of us are guilty of “computer clutter”. Productivityist talks about it in terms of the desktop and folders on our computers and although this is important – I also believe it extends further than this.
There is definitely something to be said for a clear desktop. I’ve had icons, folders and shortcuts splayed all over my desktop in the past, and it makes it hard to find anything, increasing frustration. It also increases stress because of the visual overload placed on our brains.
- You want to find everything you need quickly.
- You want to make it easy to put files away so you stay organized.
- You want to feel calm and in control when you look at your desktop, not overwhelmed and scattered.
To sort this problem out, delete files that you don’t need, and place into folders everything that you do.
Your goal is to have as few folders on your desktop as possible. Don’t just shove everything into one folder. This is just hiding everything on the desktop and not fixing the disorganisation.
Have folders for different categories of files, but not so many that it’s difficult to find the one you need when putting a file away. Don’t have multiple folders something could fit into, and don’t have subfolders going more than 2 layers deep.
Go through downloads and “my documents” too. Those get pretty clogged up!
Fix your Email Habits and Clear your Inbox
I’ve written extensively about the benefits of adopting a 2 or 3 times per day approach to email, with the objective being to completely clear your inbox at set times in the day – and leave it alone at all other times.
Some inboxes I see have hundreds or even thousands of emails still in them. These are a mixture of new, unread, read, dealt with and “noise” emails.
An inbox is for things that are coming in that you need to deal with.
Hanging onto old emails pollutes your inbox, making it hard to see what’s important and needs to be acted on.
Storing up emails in there also means you have to keep spending time looking at old emails to refamiliarise yourself with them again.
If an email contains a task that will take 2 minutes or less, do it there and then. If it will take longer, schedule some time on your calendar to do it along with notes about the task – then get rid of the email.
Once you get into the habit of working like this, you keep your inbox empty and you’ll always know that everything has been handled up front.
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