If you’re feeling a bit stifled and overwhelmed when it comes to writing new blog posts, working on your SEO, or any other task during your work day, then the first place you may have to blame is your own working environment. I don’t mean just your office, your desk, or your computer. I mean all three. Everything that surrounds you when it comes to your work life could be making it harder for you to actually get things done and be productive.
Because I am someone who has a hard time working when things are a mess, here are some common areas I usually take care of to make sure that my life is as clutter-free as possible so I can be as efficient and productive as possible.
Your Physical Environment
First off, let’s start with your physical environment, aka everything you see around you.
If you commute to an office space every day, then your car may be the first stop in the decluttering process. I don’t know about you, but being a resident of Arizona, I drink a lot of water, and sometimes those water bottles begin to pile up around my floorboards. And if you drive to work every day, you’re spending possibly an hour or more a day in a messy environment, that can have a subconscious impact on your productivity. So take about five minutes and take out the trash. You (and your car) will be happier because of it.
Your Office Space
Whether this is a room in your house, an actual office, or just your cubicle, you will want to make sure things are as neat and organized as possible, from the bookshelves (leadership books) around you to the top of the desk that your computer sits upon.
Sometimes it may not be obvious things that are making things seemed cluttered, but little things like the odd post notes cube sitting in front of books on a shelf or papers that haven’t been filed. The clearer and cleaner your space is, the more open it will feel.
There is one source of clutter on my computer that I absolutely cannot handle after a bit, even though I am the one that builds it up, and that is an over abundance of desktop icons.
Here is how to combat those so, when your programs are all minimized, only a few folders and your beautiful background image emerges.
One of the great things about Windows is the taskbar. I pin my most used programs to the taskbar and remove any desktop shortcuts to those programs. The rest of the programs that I use somewhat regularly, but not daily, I pin to the start menu.
I hate trying to find my downloads folder, so I end up downloading everything to my desktop. The key is to make sure you sort those files once you have opened them, unzipped them, or otherwise utlized them. I have one general folder that I call Stuff on my desktop that I can drag everything into. That way I have access to all of those files from my desktop, but don’t have to see them all when I minimize my programs. Within that folder, I have simple breakdowns of Images, PDFs, Word Docs, Excel Docs, etc. so it’s not just one big folder full of unending files.
Your Online Life
Last, but never least, there is the clutter in your online life. This includes, but is not limited to the following areas.
I’m still surprised by the vast number of people who don’t setup filters or have subfolders / labels to sort their mail into. I only leave mail that still needs a response or action in my inbox. Everything else gets sorted so that when I open my inbox, I (hopefully) don’t have to scroll. Sometimes, making sure that my actionable emails are cleared up helps me actually take action on them instead of procrastinating and possibly forgetting to answer something important. The latter is a work in progress for me, but it is getting better.
Gmail is my email provider of choice thanks to the fact that you can place emails in multiple labels (folders) and filter them to skip your inbox and go straight to a label, mark them as read or unread, or go to your inbox and label them so you can easily archive them to their appropriate label after you’re done reading. Also, you don’t have to look at an unending list of labels thanks to the Show if Unread setting meaning they only pop into view when there is a new email filtered to them. That way you can see topics you might want to read about later without them clogging up your inbox.
Your RSS Reader
Another source of grief can be your RSS reader. I use Google Reader for my subscriptions, and for the longest time I just didn’t bother because I had thousands of unread posts.
But over the past weekend, I went through and cleaned up blogs that either hadn’t updated since 2010 or blogs that I just wasn’t interested in anymore. Now I have a manageable news source with a much less intimidating number of unread items.
Your Social Following
Are you following too many people on Twitter? Why not use a program like HootSuite that lets you view multiple streams of info at a time and organize your favorite Twitter users into categorized lists so you can just see updates from whom you choose. And if you keep seeing annoying updates from a certain “friend” on Facebook, but aren’t ready to unfriend them just yet, why not hide their posts from showing up, leaving room for updates you really care about?
Your Declutter Areas
And there you have it! When I’m feeling less than productive, these are the first areas I hit to make sure they are nice and organized for an environment conducive to good productivity. What do you do to make sure your operating at peak efficiency?