Clutter really does affect your career: there have been studies that prove it affects the way employers and coworkers view your ability to do your job. Forbes ran an article called “The Dangers Of A Messy Desk” where a study clearly showed that co-workers judge other’s work habits by their cleanliness, and Office Max did a similar study with similar results. Here are three ways that those piles bring your life to a halt:
- You lose important information. The argument that it has to be in your view in order for you to remember to do it loses its power when you stop seeing the item that is in front of you. Honestly, what important piece of paper have you frantically looked for in the past few months?
- You get overwhelmed. How many times have you said, “I can’t deal with that right now, I’ll get to it later”? How many times did you actually get to it and do it the way you should have?
- You look inefficient. People assume that you are just like they are: overwhelmed by piles of papers and stuff while you stop seeing what’s in front of you and lose important information.
This isn’t just a workplace problem. UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families came out with a book on our clutter culture in America that is kind of fascinating and appalling and convicting all at the same time. But we don’t have to be handcuffed by our clutter habits!
Get real and start small. Take ten or fifteen minutes (set the timer) and work on one pile…and stop at the end of that time. Do this every day and you will begin to see a big difference. There’s all sorts of decluttering advice out there, but the big thing is doing it; if you wait until you have time to do it all, you probably will never do it.
If you are looking for a job, be professional about it and keep your surroundings professional. Make your job hunt a priority and respect your time job searching. Create a desk area, keep track of your papers and appointments, do the electronic weeding of your emails, etc.
Take a picture of your desk, cubicle, office, or work area, and look at it. Be honest, now. What would you think if that were a coworker’s space? If you were the boss, would you want that person working for you? If you like the way it looks, then maintain it. If you don’t like the way it looks, you have the ability to change it – a little at a time.