We are the change

Five little secrets about being organised at work

Last November, I asked you whether clutter crushes your creativity and gave you five ways to set your office up to increase your productivity.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s all very well, isn’t it? But you’re too flipping busy being productive to spend time filing and decluttering and tidying. Jeez!

Hmm…you sure about that?

Here’s a few little secrets about decluttering and being organised.

1. We’ve all got time for what we want to do

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein”.

H Jackson Brown, Jr American author of Life’s Little Instruction Book

Ever asked someone to do something for you, only to be told they haven’t got enough time…

…and then noticed that they’ve uploaded a bunch of photos to Facebook?

How come they had time to do that and not what you asked them to do?!

Same reason that you’ve got time for all the stuff you do.
We’ve all got time for what we want to do.

It’s about motivation, baby.

So what’s yours (as a method actor might say)?

Mentally beating yourself up for your messy desk won’t move you forward.
Getting in touch with your vision for your working life will.

Get clear about how you want your working life to be, and then take a look around and assess whether your workspace is in line with that commitment.

“You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.”

Charles Roberts Buxton (English brewer, philanthropist, writer and Member of Parliament 1823-1871)

2. You’re never stressed about time

Uh-uh. No you’re not.
I know it feels like it.
I speak from experience.
I go there constantly.
I frequently feel anxious that I haven’t got enough time to do what I’ve got to do.

So much so that I specifically took the issue on through personal development work. I signed up to coach on a full-on 14 week programme. On top of my already busy working life, I went up to London (from Brighton) for weekly evening sessions and three full Saturdays, provided telephone coaching for four people and ran a project in my local community.

I thought I might explode until I finally got it. And this is what I got:

There’s no reason to stress about time.

The reality is that I’ve made commitments (to myself or others) to do a certain amount of stuff, and I’ve got a certain amount of time to do it in. Either the stuff I’ve committed to do can be done in that time, or it can’t. If it can, great. Nothing to stress about. If it can’t, it can’t.
And there’s some action to take:
I could tell someone I won’t be doing something after all.
I could ask someone else to take something on.
I could reschedule something.
I could think of a quicker way to do something.
I could find a way to combine two activities.

All my anxiety is about something else.

Either I’m attaching some meaning to cancelling, delegating, rescheduling or reworking something (e.g. ‘I’m a failure. I should be able to do this’) or I’m afraid of the meaning I think others will attach to it  (e.g. ‘They’ll think I’m useless. They’ll hate me’).

Once I’ve worked out what meaning I’m attaching, I can see how inauthentic it is. I can see that it’s just a story I’ve made up and not the truth. And that, even if what I’m afraid of does happen, it doesn’t mean what I’m making it mean either. Then I can remind myself that there’s nothing wrong and deal calmly with reality.

3. You get the time back

Sure decluttering and organising your office takes time, especially if you’ve got a backlog of clutter to clear and lots of piles of disorganised papers or other materials to sort out.

Thing is, you get all that time back…and then some.

In a decluttered and organised workspace, you can lay your hand on whatever you need quickly and easily. You no longer waste time searching through piles of paper for the one document you need. You can instantly find contact details for anyone you need to speak to.

Not only that, your thought processes are lighter and clearer. You’re more productive because you’re not distracted by the clutter around you, You’re not brought down emotionally by feeling guilty about the mess you’re working in.

All of which enables you to enjoy yourself. Doing the work you love in a clear, uncluttered space is bliss.

4. Staying organised is easy

Once you’ve invested the initial time involved in decluttering and organising your office,  it takes milliseconds longer to put things away in their designated place than it does to leave them lying on your desk or floor.

Once you’ve got a filing system, it’s quick and easy to slot things into it.  Once you’re using lists and schedules as reminders, rather than leaving pieces of paper lying about, it takes a matter of seconds to add something to a list or schedule and file the relevant bit of paper, or drop it in the recycling bin.

5. The more you do it, the more you’ll do it

Staying decluttered and organised is a matter of building up your organisational muscles.  Just like when you start your new year diet and begin building up your physical muscles, the biggest breakthrough comes when you get started.  You see results straightaway, and that’s so satisfying that you want to keep it up.  Eventually, staying organised becomes a habit and you find yourself not only sticking to the systems you’ve already devised, but developing more.

You know why? Because it’s all about motivation, baby.

And I do believe that brings us full circle…

How are your organisational muscles?
Honed and toned or flabby and shabby?
Let us know in the comments section below.

Rachel Papworth runs Green and Tidy. She helps people with way too much stuff declutter and create homes they love – homes that support them to live the lives of their dreams. A trained coach with a Psychology degree, and a self-confessed decluttering and organising geek, Rachel loves the way decluttering your stuff declutters your mind, and the contribution decluttering and organising makes to living a low impact life. For more tips on having a home that supports the life you want, subscribe to her blog at http://www.mygreenandtidylife.co.uk, follow her on Twitter @greenandtidy and Like http://www.facebook.com/GreenAndTidy.


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  1. Shanni Collins says

    Fantastic! I agree – less clutter – bring on the creativity – on that blank canvas….
    Thanks Rachel

  2. Thanks Shanni. I hope it helps you create the space to create.

  3. Anne @ confidence blog says

    I’m quite good at de-cluttering. My husband is the opposite. He can’t say no and he thinks it takes too much time to declutter. Like you said, it saves you time, so I’m all for it.

    1. Hi Anne. Thanks for your comment. I often come across couples where there is conflict over clutter levels. You didn’t say that it causes arguments between you, and maybe you’ve negotiated ways to manage your different approaches harmoniously however, you might find this blog post helpful. http://mygreenandtidylife.co.uk/2011/08/stop-arguing-about-clutter/

  4. Lisa says

    I agree it is hard and I think these five steps will work!! Its very true a lot of what you wrote. I have problems with my desk so much that my coworkers entered me in a messiest cubicle contest! Check it out… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hjfb-ipHrTk

    i mean you could always enter that and get your cubicle or desk completely re done!! or I suppose you can follow your steps which are just as good!!

    1. Hi Lisa, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry your co-workers are giving you a hard time. My post doesn’t provide ‘steps’ so much as ‘secrets’: things you might not have realised about being organised at work – and which might encourage you to get organised once you realise them. I hope it helps you take on organising your workspace so it works for you. Rachel x

  5. Rebecca Watkins says

    I wrote on this same subject a few weeks ago and the psychology behind the need for material simplicity in order to think clearly- fascinates me. I have also looked into how important it is to practice clearing the mind in order to transmit this into a clearer workplace and home space. I don’t want to spam you with links, but would welcome your feedback on my blog. Both articles I wrote on the subject can be found on the featured slider on the homepage.

    1. Thanks for commenting Rebecca. I too love the link between our external, physical world and our internal, mental and emotional one. My next post will be on the way they each affect the other and how we can empower ourselves by starting with either of them. I looked for your posts and I couldn’t find them. Please feel free to post links to them here. Rachel x

  6. Carole Bozkurt says

    Errr Rachel – I need help. Carole

    1. Hi Carole

      You’re not alone. If you’re feeling so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start, email me your phone number and let’s talk. http://mygreenandtidylife.co.uk/contact/

  7. Eddie Gear says

    Rachel, Its not as easy to manage a day job and a blogging business, these things take time. I guess applying your tips might help.

    1. Hi Eddie, I hope they do and I’m sure my readers will be happy to check out your blog post too.