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The benefits of clearing workspace clutter

Spring brings thoughts of warm weather, outdoor activities … and cleaning. Although few people truly look forward to the last item on this list, almost everyone understands it needs to get done.

Don’t concentrate solely on your closet, dining-room table or other household areas. Also look to your workspace. Chances are your desk and computer could use some freshening up, too.

Here are some of the benefits of cleaning around the office:

It increases your efficiency. Filing emails about the training session you organized six months ago, deleting out-dated messages that clog your inbox and going through papers crowding your desk will make it easier to find necessary information. This can be especially important when under a tight deadline or if you’re out of the office unexpectedly and need a colleague to fill in for you.

It reduces your stress. Having a cluttered workspace can be stressful. Just think of the last time you had to rifle through a stack of papers or a mountain of emails for a single buried document. Tidying up can reduce your feelings of pressure and constraint.

Enhance your image at work. When you entertain guests at home, you usually straighten up beforehand so people feel welcome — and impressed. Take the same approach with your workspace. Why? Because appearances matter. According to a Robert Half survey, 83 per cent of human resource managers surveyed said the appearance of a person’s workspace affects their perception of that person’s professionalism. The tidier your desk, the more put together you’ll seem.

Uncover forgotten items. One immediate impact of cleaning your workspace is discovering forgotten ideas from past brainstorming sessions, assignments that never made it to your to-do list or emails that have gotten lost among other unread items. Even if you don’t consider yourself particularly messy or unorganized, it’s easy for any number of things to slip through the cracks during a busy workday.

Gain a sense of accomplishment. Don’t forget that cleaning up simply feels good. Unlike other items on your to-do list, giving your desk a good once-over can be crossed off relatively quickly, and you can see tangible results afterward.

Even if these benefits sound great, you may be wondering where you’ll find the time to actually clean up. Don’t worry — you don’t have to invest several hours to make a noticeable impact. By taking just a few minutes each day to organize your space, you can gradually clean the clutter and keep it at bay.

The key is to set small goals. If you have thousands of messages in your email inbox, yes, it will take a while to put everything in order. But organizing your emails from last October may only take a half-hour. The next day, you can tackle November and slowly work your way toward present day.

Also, be prepared to make some tough decisions. Do you really need to keep a report from 2008? A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you have referenced a certain document or email in the past six months. If you haven’t, there’s a good chance you can toss it or, at the very least, file it away. Just be sure you understand your company’s policies on handling confidential or sensitive information. You may need to retain certain documents, even if they’ve been collecting dust at the bottom of your file drawer for months.

By Robert Half International

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