Signs your work desk is too messy (and how to fix it)

messy desk

Although some believe that having a messy desk is a sign of genius, few can argue that trying to work in a cluttered environment has a profoundly negative effect on your state of mind.

Still, the prevalence of disorganization at work is staggering. A recent survey found that 16 percent of workers said their desks were at least 75 percent covered with documents and other materials, while 38 percent of workers answered that their desks were at least half covered with these items.

Many of us are prone to messiness, but we fail to realize how detrimental disorganization can be. Here are three signs your office desk is way too messy, and how you can easily fix the problem.

You’re having trouble focusing and being productive

Do you feel sluggish or unable to concentrate while at work? A disorganized space could be to blame. Scientific studies have found that the more items you have surrounding you, the more that each item competes for space in your brain. In other words, clutter is a huge distraction that makes it harder to switch between tasks, understand information, commit data to memory, and focus on the job at-hand. While there can certainly be other reasons for feeling unfocused and unproductive, a messy desk is one of the easiest to fix.

You spend a lot of time searching for misplaced items

If you think you’re just a scatterbrain who always misplaces important papers, you might be overlooking your environment’s role. After all, if your space is unorganized, you can’t be expected to feel prepared. Research shows that the typical person spends 4.3 hours a week searching for lost papers. More than likely, that isn’t time you can afford to waste. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to adopt a better organization system than it is to culminate an entirely new personality.

You frequently call in sick

Employees use their sick days for all sorts of reasons, but have you ever thought about the fact that your feelings of malaise could be caused by a messy work environment? Clutter is linked to feelings of anxiety and depression and can certainly make you feel more stressed than necessary. Experiencing work stress isn’t uncommon, but excess clutter can take matters from bad to worse.

In addition, that clutter could also be making you sick. Because clutter can easily accumulate dust, you might experience more significant respiratory issues due to your messy desk. And since disorganized work spaces aren’t usually cleaned as regularly, your desk could become a hotbed for bacteria. If you’re running out of paid time off but still feel lousy, it might be time to whip your workspace into shape.

How to declutter a messy desk at work

For one thing, embracing digital files can be a lifesaver. While you’ll likely still have a fair share of paper documents to contend with, decreasing the amount of physical documents you need to print and file away can help you keep clutter to a minimum. Plus, it saves your office money and allows you to lead a greener lifestyle.

Then, you need to set up a comprehensive filing system. A small filing cabinet, some paper trays, or some document holders can fit neatly on or under your desk and eliminate the ever-growing piles of papers you keep strewn about. You should also invest in pocket folders and accordion files keep categories of papers separated. That helps you find what you need at any given moment and eliminates visual distractions. Take this time to go through every document you’ve held onto and decide which can be recycled and which needs to be retained.

Finally, you’ll probably be more motivated to keep your desk space organized if you make it an attractive location where you actually want to spend time. That might mean adding a cute lamp, some plants, a family photo, artwork, or a few knick-knacks. The inclusion of these items can instantly transform a boring cubicle into a positive and personalized workspace that helps you become the most productive version of yourself. You’ll feel less stressed and less strained, which means you can be more productive and energized throughout the day.

We’ve all fallen victim to “Messy Desk Syndrome” at one point or another. Trying to tackle this task can feel overwhelming, but when you consider the alternative, it’s clear how important it is to declutter your workspace. If you keep these tips (and potential risks) in mind, you may be able to transform your desk and your life as a result.