A brand new desk is a wondrous thing. It gleams invitingly and seems to inspire the user to sit down and start enjoying success in their working life. Yet all too quickly, that harmonious workspace starts to accumulate clutter. Pens, coasters, photographs, snacks, paperwork, gadgets, notepaper, reminders… the list goes on.
For many workers, a cluttered desk can create a homely, comforting feeling, but a growing body of evidence indicates that actually a high density of objects can lead to increased stress levels and reduced focus. For freelancers who get paid based on their level of their productivity, this can mean reduced income, with tasks taking longer to complete and efficiency dropping as the amount of clutter builds.
There are many examples of fantastically creative thinkers whose desks are unbelievably cluttered. Steve Jobs was one. Albert Einstein was another. Yet scientists at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute have found that too many items competing visually for your attention actually lead to a reduction in focus. The multiple stimuli compete for the brain’s attention, leaving less capacity to focus on any one thing, such as the document that you’re supposed to be working on amidst all the clutter.
A team at UCLA uncovered similar findings when they studied 32 families in their home environments in Los Angeles. The four-year study found that dealing with clutter caused a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol.
If you’re currently reading this surrounded by old coffee cups, mounds of paperwork, stationery, gadgets and more then it could be time for a clear-out. Declutter your desk by getting rid of all but the absolutely essential items. File paperwork, put odds and ends neatly in drawers and transfer all those notes and reminders into your email client’s tasks and contacts systems.
Next, pause and allow the calm, clean environment to wash over you before you begin your next task. If the research is right, you’ll complete if faster and more efficiently thanks to your improved focus and reduced stress levels. As a freelancer this could well mean that the decluttering of your desk will actually increase your income!
How tidy is your desk? Are you going to attempt to declutter it based on these findings? Keep us updated via the comments section.