Do you secretly envy the coworker with the sleek, uncluttered work area? Does the idea of an essentials-only office seem like a fantasy? Are you wasting time trying to work at a disorganized desk?
Then you're a perfect candidate for office minimalism, the practice of designing a work area as bare as possible, with only the essentials at hand and in view.
SEO expert and web designer Mike Patch is an office minimalist. "I hated the feeling of being crowded, the feeling of having more work that needed to be done," he recalls. "Even the smallest task I put aside added stress. It was a distraction that [kept] me from completing the task at hand." Now his streamlined office helps him be more effective. "I had far less frustrating days once I created a minimalist work environment."
How can you be like Mike?
1. Create an environment that supports clear thinking and good morale. "When I pause and glance around the room mid-thought, I shouldn't see things that get me frustrated," Patch notes. "I should see a clean, stylish room that keeps my mind focused. The whole concept is to create a positive work environment and become more organized."
2. Change your process. Some people keep stuff on their desks as a reminder. "They are nervous that they will forget to work on an assignment unless it's out in front of them, or that they might misplace important papers," explains Sharon Danzger, a productivity and efficiency consultant with Control Chaos. "The reality is that this approach results in piles of unknown papers, files that are not where they belong, started projects that get misplaced, and a lot of time wasted searching."
Minimalist To-Do: Keep a master list of projects and tasks on your physical or computer desktop for a more efficient, and minimalist, way to stay on top of things.
3. Keep only the essentials out. "If you don't need a stapler every day, keep it in a cabinet or credenza," counsels Bonnie Joy Dewkett, The Joyful Organizer. "Keeping only the necessities on hand will help you keep your work surface clear."
Minimalist To-Do: Adopt OHIO: Only Handle It Once. Take a few seconds to handle, refer or file (in digital or physical folders) instead of making a "do-it-later" pile. "All of those small decisions that go unmade now lead up to piles of paper that consume hours of your time down the road," Dewkett explains.
4. Embrace the space to work and think. Minimalism creates physical space and mental space, additional room that fosters efficiency and clearer thinking. "Having a clean, uncluttered work surface enables us to focus with fewer distractions," Danzger says.
Minimalist To-Do: Declutter your mind with a few deep breaths several times a day. It really does make you more productive.
5. Commit the time. Even the most devoted office minimalist gets off course sometimes. "I like to clean up before I leave for the day and right before I head to lunch," Dewkett says. "Coming back to a clean desk makes everyone feel good."
Minimalist To-Do: Schedule a small block of time twice a day to straighten up and keep your minimalist momentum going.
Adopting a minimalist office mentality might seem like a nice-to-have, especially for super-busy business owners and entrepreneurs. But Danzger disagrees. "The benefits associated with clear, open spaces far outweigh the few seconds it might take to open a drawer."