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Home Working Tips – Tackling a Cluttered Workspace?

Home working tips

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

We often kid ourselves that we are an organised person, we may admit that OK, we can be  a little messy now and again, but life right now is messy, right?

Anyone who’s working from home and possibly sharing their workspace with a partner or other family members, perhaps home-schooling too, is going to face the dilemma of dealing with clutter.  That’s a fact.

Other members of the family may not respect that workspace as sacrosanct only to be touched by the sainted home worker with pressing deadlines.  Yes, we can become territorial within our own homes and lockdowns haven’t helped us open up as more tolerant sharers.

Work is important but we cannot expect everyone in the family to behave the same way and perhaps if a space is already a little cluttered it can give licence for others to start adding to it, forming a home workspace art installation akin to Tracey Emin’s Bed.

How do we counter this conflicting situation trying to work through the chaos and carnage of “stuff”?  It really grates when we see perfect Zoom backdrops of pristine spaces but just remember they’ve probably gone to great pain to get “that look” so as to impress.  As a rule, our workplaces look nothing like the advertiser’s view of a clean table, laptop perfectly poised and surrounded by acres of quiet space and bookshelf full of worthy reading material.

Real life is far more “interesting” and challenging but we can make our own lives less stressful and more productive if we take a proactive step to organise ourselves.

WARNING – This is going to take discipline and the ability to make effective decisions.  Fight the inner hoarder and as the Spanish may say mañana it’s time to be more ruthless and to do it sooner rather than later.

The process and determination of what “truly organised” looks like will vary from person to person.  They key is to feel on top of things and confident that matters won’t get overlooked and opportunities or deadlines missed and that others will see and respect that space as one that deserves to be kept in order.

There is a level of science and tangible evidence of the psychological benefits of having a tidy up in an office space.  We know that Albert Einstein wasn’t the tidiest person and used that huge intellect to try and justify his position.

“if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

Now Albert was right about a lot of things but on this point I’m afraid he’s wrong.  Some may revel in the chaos of a cluttered environment but for the vast majority of us it’s a stressful and frustrating place to be.

Here are a few suggested tips to get things underway.

  1. Work out what being organised will look like for you.  Don’t be side-tracked by other views of what you should or shouldn’t do, make your own determination and picture your life in an organised vision of the future.
  2. Scope out the task and set out the specific actions that you’ll need to take.  If this localised home makeover impacts on others it’s only polite to share your thoughts.
  3. Know yourself…we all have little foibles that can often get in the way of progress. Procrastination or “faffing about” can be one weakness if there’s a particularly knotty matter to handle.  My response to this is to deal with it first, get it out of the way and have the more enjoyable tasks lined up as the carrot to motivate me through the less palatable parts of the project.  Others may be stimulated by having their favourite tunes firing them into action in a “get to it” playlist, some may need both.
  4. You are in control so be your own boss but don’t be easy on yourself.  Set deadlines and meet them.  Just make sure they’re realistically achievable.  Don’t set yourself too big a task in one go.  There’s nothing worse than half completing the job and being tired out too. It will just end up being a de-motivating and totally counterproductive experience.  If you have a very large job to do to get yourself organised, break it down to manageable chunks.
  5. Don’t just shuffle the pack.  Clutter and disorganisation will only be temporarily alleviated by shifting “stuff” from one area to another.  Be decisive and ruthless.  Get rid, shred and recycle as appropriate.
  6. Many hands make light work – a phrase that can come in very handy if you’ve willing helpers.  Don’t be afraid to ask. You can make a challenge of it, a game and even incentivise with rewards.  If you’ve shared as in (2.) above they may well volunteer their services willingly.
  7. Adapt as you go.  If the original plan needs a tweak because you’re finding a better way to index files or make use of a particular cabinet, go with the flow.
  8. Treat yourself.  We all like to feel a tangible benefit to working hard so why not promise yourself your favourite takeaway or another treat as a reward for getting organised.

Once you think you’ve finished just remember, you actually haven’t…being organised is an ongoing process.  Keep on top of matters to avoid falling back into the bad habits of old.

The greatest advantage, once the job is done is the feeling of control and confidence you get from knowing exactly where things are.  You can save a great deal of time and avoid the frustration of duplicating effort by clearing out the clutter and in so doing retain the knowledge of what you have.

For me a cluttered office results in cluttered thinking and working practices.  A clean and ordered environment certainly improves my outlook and ability to cope with the ever-increasing demands of the technology-driven, multi-tasking world in which we live.

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