Ever wake up to a messy room? We all have at some point. Most of us also notice the feeling associated with it as well. A feeling of disorganized confusion, almost as if the disorganization in the room has encroached its way into your mind. This all too familiar feeling is one that inhibits leading a productive day, and if left unchecked can swallow entire weeks worth of time.
Research has shown (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21228167) that having a lot of visual stimulants present within your field of vision, causes a lowering of your ability to focus on one specific thing. Now, this may not seem too important at first since you can simply say “when I want to focus, the thing I want to focus on will be the only thing I’m looking at”. This is usually not true for most of us. If you have paperwork or college work to complete, where do you sit down to finish most of it? This desk or workspace will be the main thing encompassing our field of vision while we work. Thus anything found within this workspace or sitting on your desk will be within plain sight during your work, and has the potential to lower your ability to focus. Having a disorganized surrounding, when looked at in this light, has a directly negative impact on your ability to focus. So what are some ways to avoid this, and thus enhance your focus and productivity? Here are a few ways I’ve managed to do so:
Pack It Out, Pack It In
EVERYONE has heard this if they’ve ever been to preschool or kindergarten. Put away what you take out. Seems simple right? Well, judging by the messes on our desks that seem to work their way into our daily life as something acceptable, it’s not. We have a tenancy to want to work on a specific task until it’s done, and then promptly go straight into “reward mode”. Some examples being: a student finishing their essay and immediately grabbing thirty snacks (gotta be prepared right?) and watching some good old tv, the worker who comes home after a day at work to relax and vegetate until nightfall, or the casual cook who leaves the kitchen looking like a battlefield after they’re done being Gordon Ramsey. All of these are perfectly fine in moderation! It’s good to reward yourself after working hard for a period of time. The problem arises when we never take the time to go back and cleanup, start to implement this behavior into small tasks, or begin displaying this behavior with everyday things we do within our workspace. If you leave your paper, pens, books, computer, tea, snacks, calculator, and so on out after each time you do a homework lesson because hey, you’ve earned your break, then pretty soon your workspace will look like a highschool student’s locker. I recommend adding a five minute “cleanup” period to the end of each of your work sessions. It will work wonders on your ability to focus over time.
No matter how good we are about putting things away as we’re finished using them (which let’s face it, we’re not all that great about that usually), there’s always going to be a small accumulation of mess over time. The little things we miss each day during our “cleanup” time. The dust on the desk, the trash in the trashcan, the debris on the floor that needs to be vacuumed, and so on. All these things add up, and at the end of the week should be dealt with. Take an hour each week on a set day, and just get it done. It keeps things tidy, and having a nice freshly-cleansed workspace at the start of each week will allow for maximum productivity.
Out of Sight Gives Peace of Mind
One of the biggest forms of clutter I see on people’s desks (including mine) is all the “needed” items laying atop the desk. Pens, pencils, calculators, books, notebooks, headphones… the list goes on and on. While all these things are needed for most of your everyday work, the sight of them is not. Organize these things inside your desk instead. Limit yourself to one item being left out. It can be your computer, your notebook, whatever you want really. Just keep it to one item if at all possible. This will keep your workspace clean and clear, which will allow for better overall productivity and focus. I recommend getting an in-desk organizer to keep everything separated and easily accessible. This one is a common one I see many people use: Rolodex Mesh Collection Drawer Organizer, Black (22131). Or if you like to tinker with every aspect of your own organization (who doesn’t?), I recommend getting an adjustable organizer such as this one: Lipper International Bamboo Adjustable Drawer Organizer.
All in all, as with any good habit, staying organized is a constant effort (I write about my discovery of this here: https://forwardjourneyblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/what-i-learned-at-berkeley-or-how-i-succeeded-by-failing/). It’s a time investment we make in order to be able to have a workable environment. But overall, it’s an investment that has an tremendous return value in terms of being able to focus, and leading a productive day, everyday.