One of the most effective ways I became more efficient and productive, was to create a clean and 100% clutter free working environment.
The Concept of White Space
I'm going to relate keeping your workspace clean with my area of expertise, user interface design. An important part of any user interface is white space, Ie. the blank or clear area between elements. Every good web design has plenty of white space. The reason why, it helps draw focus to important elements, improves navigation and separates items.
Your desk or workspace is a user interface as well. You use your desk as an interface to achieve your work. Therefore, for it to be an effective, you will need plenty of white space.
Take a look at your desk. Does it have elements that are unnecessary. Are the items spaced out with plenty of room? Or is it being used as a storage closet.
Define Your Space
When I start designing an interface, the first step is to define the functionality. What is my desk going to be used for?
My answer to this question was "internet" and "sketching". 99% of my work either involves working on a computer or sketching on paper. Therefore, everything on my desk would need to be used to help achieve this functionality. Everything else must go.
Throw it Away
Do you really need that pen that sort of works, or that empty used envelope? I have a confession. I was a hoarder, and held onto things with the fear that if I threw them away I would regret it later on down the track when I needed that item. Well guess what, I now am harsh when it comes to throwing things away, and I've had not one regret.
Keep it Minimal
This is probably the most important factor when it comes to keeping a clean work area. The less stuff you have on a desk, the easier it is to keep clean. Currently on my desk; a monitor, a stack of notes for jotting down items, one pencil and one notepad. The nick nacks are limited to a miniature zen garden (very practical) and a bamboo plant (again practical). A mouse and speakers round out the entire workspace. Everything else (which isn't much) has been put away, out of sight and out of mind.
You don't need multiple pens of the same colour on your desk or myriad of stationary items that are only used once a week.
I don't use a complex filing system. Its simply a set of folders, one each for things like receipts, warranties, instructions, statements etc. I don't store these items in date order, they are all just lumped together. Personally, I've found that I very rarely go back and look at these items, so I can't justify the time for a complex filing arrangement.
Paper items that are looked at on a regular basis are stored in Evernote - as a digital file. This is 100x more effective than a filing cabinet. Evernote has search, tags and as its hosted in the cloud, I have access wherever I am.
Again with paper, I'm fairly harsh when it comes to throwing things away. I also don't get bank statements or transaction receipts from ATM's - instead I opt for internet banking and paperless statements. Not only is this good for the environment, but you might actually save money by opting into this with your bank.
How to Keep it Clean
There really is no trick to keeping a workspace like this clean. If you've done it right, there should be lots of white space by now. You'll very easily notice anything thats out of place.
At the end of the day, I usually have lots of sketches, glasses, rulers etc. out on the desk as they were being used. It takes 20 seconds to get rid of them and start fresh for a new day.
Its a really good feeling to sit down at a nice clean desk in the morning. Somehow it motivates me a little. Let me know about your workspace in the comments.
Photo By - Kevin Labianco