Before you side-eye the colorful, overenthusiastic Pinterest board I’m about to link to you, it’s scientifically proven that clutter can confound your creative endeavors.
It’s all about self-regulation–the idea that we can control our actions and direct them towards goals we know we should be aiming for.
Clutter negatively reduces our ability to self-regulate by sucking away all of our mental resources–it’s a threat, in a sense–and leaving us feeling too tired to be productive.
Because we’re often working with limited time and money, it can be daunting to face the mounds of books, receipts, and papers that lie await for you to sort.
To make your job a little easier, we’ve stolen office organization ideas from this Pinterest board and collected them here for your perusal.
#1 Use binder clips as makeshift cable organizers.
Smart devices make our lives easier, but their cables sure don’t–and as a result, our desks often end up looking more like wild jungles than pristine meadows.
Binder clips come in all different sizes, so you can purchase the ones that fit the cable heads you use at your office. Clip them to your desk and string the head of the cable through, something like this:
#2 Stuff a bunch of plants in there.
Though we attempt to decorate our drab cubicles with bright pictures and crafts, our desperate DIY attempts often fall short. Instead, try tending to an office plant.
A simple Monstera deliciosa is a welcome addition to any workspace, and how can you possibly say no to your personal little friend?
Heck, you might even start getting excited about going to work each day.
The University of Exeter ran a study in 2013 at the Chelsea Flower Show, and revealed some pretty crazy facts: office plants boosted overall staff well-being by up to 47%, improved creativity by 45%, and increased productivity by 38%.
A different study, this one by Texas University, discovered that people generated 15% more ideas when they were surrounded by greenery.
Plants make great friends when you’re trapped in an otherwise dull office, or if you’re stuck in a rented space that you can’t make permanent changes to. They’re especially powerful in windowless office environments, where a lack of sun and natural lighting can cause our motivation to wilt.
As if you needed more reason to get a plant today–did you know that they help reduce mental fatigue, increase attentiveness, and lower blood pressure too?
#3 Install a water dispenser nearby or bring a jug of water to work (because why not?)
Dehydration is a very serious health issue that has more impact than we realize: When you don’t get enough water, you could feel sleepy, lethargic, confused, irritable, and dizzy.
In the United States alone, a lack of hydration leads to 500,000 hospital trips a year. We’re always told to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate–but few of us actually follow this advice.
If you’re an employer, then keep water on tap or think of other fun, simple ways to keep your staff hydrated and energized. Supply fresh fruit, refillable bottles, or even some energy drinks in the fridge (if you’re feeling generous).
#4 Keep ‘em comfy.
The cheapest office chairs are usually a pain in the butt (literally and figuratively). Sometimes, boosting productivity is as simple as switching out those cold, hard butt holders for comfier, padded chairs.
How often have you tried to focus, only to realize that you can’t because you’re simply not “in the zone”?
On top of that, why not do away with cubicles entirely?
The walls of cubicles can be confining and restrictive–sometimes, a shared desk with file cabinets beneath it can be much more pleasant. Studies show that offices that encourage collaborative working boosts productivity by up to 15%.
#5 Keep a rubber duck on your desk.
Rubber duck debugging is a tool that lots of programmers use to solve problems: they explain each line of code they’ve created to their duck, and in doing so, stumble upon an issue that’s preventing the program from running properly.
Now, you may not be a developer–but having a rubber duck on your desk can still be useful.
Not only does it provide a happy pop of color, but in the event that you do feel stuck, overwhelmed, or confused, you can pick it up and chat with it.
#6 Reuse Pringle cans as pen storage.
Rather than losing your pens in one of your miserable, bottomless cabinet drawers, keep them in a Pringles can (of course, rinse those crumbs out first with water).
You can have a different can for different pens–your Sarasa clips, your Pilot G2s, your cheap, dime-a-dozen ink pens–just don’t keep your fancy fountain pens in there.
#7 Don’t be afraid to decorate.
Dr. Craig Knight has studied the psychology of working environments for 12 years. Says Knight, “If you enrich a space, people feel much happier and work better; a very good way of doing this is by using art.”
Deutsche Bank has over 900 offices scattered in 40 countries across the globe; they own 60,000 works of art and even have a global head of art.
You may not have the funds to spend on an original Monet piece, but choosing great art doesn’t have to be pricey. Use the color theory to emphasize the “positive vibes”–you could even host a fun company-wide painting class and hang the results up on a wall.
#8 Ditch the fancy meeting rooms.
Some of the offices I’ve toured have massive meeting rooms with fancy, reclinable chairs. But did you know that meetings are actually awful time and money sinks?
Meetings waste more than $37 billion per year, and about 15% of a company’s collective time is spent in meetings. Managers–the people who often have the most work to do–find a majority of their time locked up in mandatory meetings.
Don’t do that to your employees. Instead of trying to make them comfy at meetings, keep them busy instead.
Give them time to do what you’re paying them to do–if you absolutely must have a meeting to share loads of helpful information, then keep it standing-room only. That way, you’ll get your point made as quickly as possible, and everyone will be free to get back to actual work.
#9 Use peg or cork boards to keep important information front and center.
Boards (the physical kind, not the panel kind full of investors and insistent stakeholders) are extremely versatile. One company hung a whiteboard up in the middle of their office, and allowed people to anonymously write questions and words of support on sticky notes.
If you hate the ornery vibe of paintings, then this option would be a great way to add lots of color to a plain room.
You could use a cork board at your own personal workspace to hang up important receipts and keep track of orders or upcoming calls.
Or, if you often use office tools–like clippers, scissors, small tape rolls, and staplers–you can keep them on hooks on a metal pegboard (Ikea sells this one for just $9). That keeps them in easy access and prevents them from taking too much space on your desk.
#10 Hang a shoe container behind a door and use it as storage.
If you’re the kind of friendly, trusting employer that allows your employees to borrow utensils, then you can always use it for those. You could also assign one small pocket to each employee, and use it to update them on important tasks.
If your office likes having fun, or you work at a publisher, you could also use it as a makeshift library of sorts.
Slip a book into each pocket, and give your employees the freedom to borrow one for inspiration or during their break. Be careful, though–just make sure they always return them when they’re done!
#11 Keep a basket dedicated exclusively to clutter.
If you’re anything like me, you have a tendency to hoard documents–even when they might not be important. Rather than forcing yourself to address everything immediately, you can dump it in the basket to process it at a later time.
This would be the perfect solution to store unopened envelopes, handwritten notes, receipts, half-finished doodles–at the end of each quarter (or every month, if you’re so inclined), you can sort it and toss everything you don’t need.
#12 Get a tomato timer!
The Pomodoro Technique is unique because it’s one of the few productivity tactics that actually works. It was created by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo (probably why the timer is almost always in the shape of a tomato?) and basically posits that humans naturally have short attention spans.
Pretty simple, right?
Humans are terrible at focusing on long projects, so instead, focus on getting things done in 25-minute intervals. Set a clock for 25 minutes, and afterwards, take a 5-minute break. After four of these sessions (almost 2 hours of productivity!), you’ve earned the right to a 20-minute break.
#13 Use a blue light.
Blue light is high-temperature lighting, and has been used in Japan for positive purposes to great effect–the implementation of these simple lights at train stations has significantly lowered suicide rates. And they’ve been found to improve productivity and concentration by nearly 37%.
High-temperature lights don’t always have to be blue–if you have a lot of windows in your office, then your problem is solved.
But if you don’t, then daylight-simulating bulbs can help promote a sense of wellbeing. Plus, they suppress melatonin, the neurochemical that helps you feel drowsy.
#14 Use scent smartly.
Essential oils are all the rage, and they honestly aren’t that amazing–but it’s true that limited aromatherapy does have positive impact on productivity, concentration, and wellbeing.
You could purchase a small diffuser to place at your desk, as long as your neighbors don’t mind. Some of the best scents for work are peppermint, lemon, and jasmine.
#15 Make like the millennials and get a bunch of fidget spinners.
One in each hand, right? Isn’t that all the rage nowadays?
All jokes aside–fidget toys and mind puzzles are a good way to distract yourself from dull, monotonous tasks for a few minutes. And fidget gadgets are well-intentioned–after all, stress toys have been around for ages without doing much harm.
Small, repetitive activities have been shown to increase the level of neurotransmitters in a way that actually increases our concentration–it’s why, when you chew gum, bite a pen, or doodle while at a seminar, you might actually feel more focused.
Says Matthew and Mark McLachlan, the founders of the infamous Fidget Cube, explained,
We feel personally that fidgeting has been beneficial in our daily lives. And since launching our product, we’ve had discussions with an incredible amount of mental health professionals and researchers in the fields of psychology and neuroscience who are interested in using Fidget Cube for their research
There you go: 16 techniques to implement in your own office. Here’s one more: use Toggl to track your time and boost your productivity even more with cool reports, stop-and-start timing, and plenty of other nifty features.