We've all seen it before. We arrive for work on Monday morning to discover we've accumulated piles of paperwork, plus stacks of emails to sift through. We spread it across the desk, organising it all by category, in a desperate attempt to look organised for the manager. We want to feel busy and act productively. But before the day is out, we realise we've barely made a dent and we're leaving the office frazzled and fried in a deep vat of nasty, sticky, hot stress. Stress no more, my friends. Here are five ways adopting minimalism could boost your productivity at work and, ultimately, earn you that prized promotion.
1. Clearer Desk, Clearer Mind
Know this: whatever is on your desk, you can guarantee it's on your mind too. There you are, slapping out fancy words on the keyboard to show a prospective client that you know your stuff when all you really know is that you've got three mugs stuffed behind your monitor and that there are probably millions of microbial monsters festering inside each one. Before long, you're paranoid you're getting sick because your nose has started itching and you're starting to sweat in this manky, mouldy office. Untidy workspaces can really 'mess' with our minds. Once we've seen the offending mugs, our senses are suddenly on high alert, noticing every grotty corner, every overflowing pen pot. In seconds, we've lost the valuable concentration we needed to finish our important email. I would be very sorry indeed if you lost your concentration mid-sentence; that's never a good place to end up...
Researchers from the University of Navarra, Spain, supported this issue of sensory overload when they found in a study that the accuracy of highly diligent employees significantly dwindled when working in a messy environment. Compared to working in a clean and tidy area, they were far more likely to make mistakes. The chances are, we don't want to mound up the mental mess as well as the physical mess and we really don't want to miss the opportunity for a promotion and a higher salary, so we'd better get tidying...
2. The Fail-safe Filing System
As much as we might secretly wish we could easily offload a tonne of work to somebody else, what happens when our mess has to be managed by somebody else? Say we got sick from those infected mugs and we have to take a day off. Whilst we can navigate our own forests' worth of papers, our colleagues might have a harder time understanding it all. Let's talk frankly here: where will you be to defend yourself if the colleague you thought was there to save your butt turned you in as a serial mess-maker? If they can't find the missing pages to that contract, you're in for it. The potential for being bad-mouthed plus the time everybody wasted trying to search for the lost pages could seriously lower you in your boss's estimations. By adopting a more manageable filing system you could evade these circumstances altogether. And if you wanted to get really smart and super-organised, you'd have a scanned copy backed up on the company-wide database, for extra security. Beat that, traitorous colleague!
3. Exert that Executive Power and Enforce Those Policies
Let's look at it now from a managers' perspective. You've got enough on your mind that you could really do without hearing the commotion as your most unorganised employee searches through their junk to find the papers. If your employees can't find something they're going to complain to you, whether it's your fault it's lost or not. As a result, you're jeopardising the crucial time needed to crunch the workload and elevate your business. You have the power to change this conundrum. Use it. Enforce a strict tidy-desk policy, introduce a new system, do whatever it takes to put some order into this place. Time is money and no-one is getting anywhere without utilising it properly. Take the wisdom of the Harvard Business Review, for example. The smallest of alterations can massively impact workplace productivity for the better. Also, consider this: if the manager is seen utilising a more minimalist approach to their workspace, you can bet your employees will do it too.
4. A Tidy Workspace is Super Satisfying
Let's go back to the Monday morning thing. The last ten minutes of Friday's shift in which you tidied up your workstation didn't just allow you to get away with not working for the final ten minutes. Turning up to a tidy desk at the beginning of the week can help to empower you. You'll have a clear, empty head, ready to take on today's' tasks, one by one. If you haven't quite got the hang of keeping your workspace organised throughout the day yet, just focus on that simple task at the end of every day. Everything in drawers or containers, letter trays as empty as you can get them to be. Put it all away so that you can switch off physically and mentally from the days' work, and come in the next day feeling confident that you can boost your salary with your hard work, effort and time management. Take your coat off and hang it neatly on the chair, roll yourself close to the desk and switch that PC on like a total boss!
5. Reduce the Clutter by Going Digital or Getting a Day Planner
No excuses. Whatever your preference, it's better that you keep everything safely stored together. There are loads of apps on the market, like Dropbox or Google Drive that you can use as a digital document wallet. As long as you are minimalist in the way that you sort and move data within your folders, rest assured you won't be losing things down the back of drawer units again. That said, you'll want to make sure you correctly label your files. Calling something 'Untitled Doc 4' is not going to help you on your productivity hike. If you're a self-confessed diary fanatic, a technophobe or an all-around 'on paper' type of person, you needn't skip this step entirely. Your executive document carry-file is going to make you look totally professional and ready to whip out whatever it is you need to save the day in a crisis of lost documents. Be the Mary Poppins of the office - you'd be surprised at how much you can fit into one of those portfolios - work hard and waltz your way into getting promoted to PA of the CEO!
There you go. Five ways minimalism can help you to achieve commendation from directors to fellow employees and get you up the career ladder. Just like the philosophy behind minimalism, it's the small and simple things that stand out the most...so get out there and get organised!