THE INC. LIFE

3 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Space and Increase Your Productivity Right Now

If Marie Kondo’s phrase doesn’t help you decide what to keep and what to discard around your work space, try asking yourself these three questions.

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BY Megy Karydes - 10 Apr 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

You've probably heard of, if not read, the bestselling book about decluttering your space: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Its premise is to rid your space of items that don't "spark joy." The beginning of the spring season presents the perfect opportunity to take stock of what you see and decide what to toss or file away.

Science supports the need to keep our spaces somewhat organized or clean to help us better focus. "The capacity of the visual system to process information about multiple objects at any given moment in time is limited," according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Contrarians like to argue that a messy space is a sign of genius.

Sure, there's an argument to be made that if we obsess about keeping things clean and organized--like getting to Inbox Zero--we're procrastinating from getting the real work done. Or, you can think of it like being presented with a five-course meal all at once. Where do you start?

I like to use the spring season for spring cleaning my home and work space. If you're ready to tackle spring cleaning your office space, here are three questions to ask yourself right now to help you decide whether to toss or keep what's physically surrounding your work space:

1. Do I need this item near me?

Touch every object in your space and decide its fate. Surrounding me right now are three pen holders, hand cream, file folders bursting at the seams, printer ink, journals, three different types of cords, you get the picture. It's cluttered.

If Kondo's phrase works for you, great. Personally, asking myself if an item brings me "joy" doesn't really do much.

I can ask myself: Do I need it on my desk or side desk? If not, I need to put things where they belong or get rid of them. I can use Kondo's advice about touching every item and making a decision.

Sounds corny? I thought so too, until I tried the approach last year. I was shocked that I wasn't constantly moving things around, looking for files, or simply distracted with that receipt sitting on my desk that needed to be filed away.

Once my desk was cleared off and clean, all my mind had left to do was focus on the task at hand. I easily gained back an hour per week--which I used to shut down early and let my brain recharge.

2. Does it make my life easier?

Working off the first question, ask yourself whether what's on your desk makes your life easier. My external drive makes my life easier, but I don't use it regularly enough for it to justify real estate on my desk. When I do need it, though, I can easily find it since it's stored where it needs to be--saving me time and money.

Until last year, I had three external drives, because I kept losing them and to keep buying more. Once I took the time to properly store my supplies, I stopped having to worry about not being able to find what I needed or wasting my time ordering new supplies. If it makes your life easier in the long term, it's worth the short-term effort.

3. Do I really need a thousand paperclips?

While it's tempting to buy office supplies in bulk, sometimes we really don't need 1,000 paperclips. Or envelopes. Or journals and stationery. Okay, maybe we need those journals and stationery--I'll admit, I'm a journal and stationery hoarder, but I use those almost daily.

In any case, set aside all those unnecessary office supplies and donate them to a nearby school or non-profit. Not having extra things around frees up your physical and mental space--both things I've been able to use to be more productive in the long run.

Bottom line? The more visual stimuli present within your view will fight for your visual attention. The more clutter you see, the more distracted you'll be.

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