Clearing out the clutter

Do you remember what it felt like the last time you managed to clear your workspace and work in an uncluttered environment?   When was the last time you had a clean desk, empty inbox (including email), and were just working on the task at hand. If you’re anything like me you probably got a lot more work done, and felt better while you were doing it.  Now I know youre probably sitting back right now thinking something along the lines of ‘He’s right, I must have a clear out.’  Am I right?

If so, make a commitment to yourself to do it, and I don’t mean just adding it to your to do list, but REALLY making a commitment. Make an appointment with yourself for an hour. Enough time to clear your work space and free up some extra time and space to get more done, more efficiently, more effectively, and with less stress.

The trouble with a cluttered desk is not the mess, not the lack of space, and not ‘losing stuff’ (although these all play a part – some studies indicate that cluttered execs spend up to six weeks a year locating ‘misplaced’ information). The real trouble with cluttered work areas is distraction. Most peoples minds work in a pretty visual fashion. We see something, we process it, we react to it. Much of the processing goes on behind the scenes, but it still goes on. When we have a cluttered area in front of us, be it a desk or a workbench, we are constantly being distracted. We can be working on getting that proposal out in time, and we know that it’s the highest priority we have, but our eye keeps getting caught by that stack of receipts reminding us about our expenses, or the pile of unread magazines reminding us we really should catch up on current trends. Sometimes, we get a distraction that actually does take us away from what we should be doing. The ‘it’ll only take a second’ jobs like opening the post, filing that document, or checking email. (Email is often one of the biggest culprits here; always on, always distracting, often completely irrelevant!)

When we clear it out, we allow oursleves the luxury of focus. A clear mind and path to achieving the task we have in front of us.  Making sense?  Think it’ll work? Going to give it a try? I’ll give you a few little tips to get you started, but you’re going to need some willpower as well – NOTHING gets done without a little determination.


  1. Turn OFF email – That’s right, OFF. Check it in bulk. It’s much quicker to delete 20 spam or junk emails at once, than one at a time. If there’s something there you do need to deal with, isn’t it better to get to it when you’ve finished the higher priority item you’re working on now?
  2. Use the Do it, Delegate it, Dump it rule. It’s pretty simple, but you MUST start from the back. Think ‘Can I dump this?’ first, otherwise you’re going to end up doing all the stuff you don’t need to.
  3. If you can’t Dump it, can’t Delegate it, and you’re too busy to Do it right now, Diary it. Schedule time to complete each task – even if it’s just 5 minutes. Tasks we just ‘get around to’ don’t get got around to and just end up as distractions. Discipline yourself!
  4. Clean up EVERY evening. If it takes a while to get started with this, that’s ok, but the quicker you get clean, the better. Make sure you’re workspace is less cluttered every evening until it’s completely clear.
  5. Get yourself a decent planning system. Some people work well with lists, some work better with computerised tasks. The system is what matters – whatever you choose, stick with it and make it work for YOU!

Remember, most things feel awkward the first few times we do them, but we get used to them quickly if we stick at it.

To paraphrase an old sales adage. ‘The biggest waste of a person’s time are the tasks that don’t get finished!’

If you’re not going to finish, decide early and get rid of it. Any one who wants any specific tips or help with this can feel free to email me or comment here. Just stop making excuses!


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About me.

A professional speaker focused on helping people get more out of their day; for themselves and their companies.
I help people get things done by helping them realise that all the knowledge in the world will do absolutely NOTHING for them - if they don’t use it.
I want to change the world, and getting the right people in the right place is only the start. In todays world it is so, so easy to get pulled into doing all the wrong things. I help people figure out what the right and wrong things are and make sure their energies are focused in the right place.
Feel free to comment, or you can contact me by emailing markbell AT mbsprogress DOT com



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