Improve your WorkSpace, Increase your Productivity

Improve your Work Space, Increase your Productivity

Do you start your work day with the best of intentions–and then find, hours later, you’ve gotten nothing done?

Your problem just might be your desk and office. If you improve your workspace, you can also increase your productivity.

For most people, the your desk makes up the biggest part of your work space. Organizing your desk to eliminate distractions, and streamline your workflow, can help you increase your productivity. If you need to clean your desk start with the that. Need some help with a desk-cleaning project? Let’s start with this simple desk-cleaning project.

If your desk isn’t piled too deep with stuff you might just need a little help to improve your workspace. Here are four tips to put you on the path to improving your workspace and increasing your productivity.

Lay out your office to increase your productivity

Ditching desktop distractions can help you stay focused on your work

Over the years, I have amassed a large collection of stress “balls.”  I use the term balls loosely because almost none of them are actually balls. I snag them at trade shows, receive them in packages from vendors and acquire them from friends. At one time, they all lived in a corner of my desk. Of course, I also had a corner desk that stretched six feet in each direction. Now I share my home office and my total desk length is only 30″.

It didn’t take long to realize my cute little stress balls–and a few other distracting desk accessories–were gobbling up some very valuable desktop real estate. Now my stress balls live in the basement where my kids play with them and they no longer distract me. Reducing the visual clutter and the temptation to take too frequent breaks has helped me increase productivity.

clean and comfortable office

Kill the clutter and lower your stress level

I know when my desktop gets piled high with paper, I have a much harder time staying focused on my work. I swear I can hear those papers calling my name. And, of course, whatever I suddenly need for my next project will be at the bottom of the third pile I dig through. Organizing the paper and project clutter is one of the quickest ways you can increase your productivity.

As you finish a project, take a few minutes and put away all the supplies you got out for that particular project, whether it’s notes, writing implements, art supplies, or cameras and recording equipment. Not only will it free up desk space for whatever you’re doing next, it will also signal to your mind that you are done with a task and give you a mental declutter as well.

Taking 10 minutes to clear away all the papers at the end of each work day means I can start the next day fresh without feeling the weight of my work looming over me. It also means I’m less likely to spill something on an important document, but that’s my personal klutziness issue.

declutter your desk to increase your productivity

Take a Break.

Too much time at your desk wears you down and starts to shrink your attention span. Regular breaks are good for your productivity AND your health. Science has found that for optimal productivity, working 52 minutes with a 17-minute break is the way to go. As an interesting coincidence, when I was in high school, our classes were 52 minutes long (but only one 17-minute break called “Conference Period”). In Step Away from the Computer” you can learn more about how breaks will actually help you increase your productivity and get more done.

Don’t Be a Clock Watcher

Even if you have a looming deadline or an important appointment, constantly keeping one eye on the clock won’t help you get finished any faster. Use your calendar/alarm clock app on your computer to give you reminders and give your desktop clock the old heave-ho.

What is your productivity challenge? What have you found that increases your productivity? Please leave me your comments below.

We published this post in 2013 and updated it in 2022.

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  1. These are great tips Marie! There is definitely a need for decluttering the desktop here. I dropped from a 3-sided work station down to a single desk, and am having serious trouble finding places for everything.

  2. I actually tried the small desk, no way. Did not work for me at all. I have certain things that I need to be able to grab without moving…pens, post its, tissue…on a small desk I always felt cramped and clutter.
    Now with my big one I can keep it clean and organized 😉

    1. You definitely need to find what works for you, Yvonne. I admit there are days I really miss my big desk–but there just wasn’t anywhere in my house to put it. One of these days I will have my own office/workspace again.

  3. There’s no doubt that our work space affects our productivity. I’m amazed how differently I work at my office desk versus when I’m on the road: on the one hand, I have far fewer distractions around my laptop on the road. But then I also miss familiar elements … 😉

  4. Robin Strohmaier says:

    This is just what I needed to hear, Marie. There are so many times that things are so busy that I son’t make the time to declutter. I will make it a goal to do this first thing in the morning. Thank you for all the great tips!

    1. Just give yourself 10 minutes at the beginning or the end of each work day, Robin. After a while, it will just seem like second nature and you’ll be on top of it all the time.

  5. All your tips are important, but I loved the “kill the clutter”. It is so much better work in a clean and nice place, that our productivity increases for sure. Very nice infographic, I shared it!

    1. Thanks, Meire. So glad you enjoyed it. I agree–it is so much more pleasant to work in a clean environment–and I find I am much more creative when I’m not surrounded by clutter.

    1. I think decluttering is a permanent process, Gary. If we aren’t diligent about it, things pile up so quickly and it’s so easy just to put it off. Isn’t that what file cabinets are for? 😉

  6. I do use lots of notes, sticky notes and sheets that can become over-whelming. Where to start? A good clear up and making just one list of ‘to-do’s always make me feel more on top of things!

  7. Great article! This is honestly how I felt all day today. I was at work and I felt completely swamped and busy, but in retrospect, I seem to have gotten barely anything done:( Thanks for the tips about how t be more productive..If facebook disappeared I would be great…LOL

  8. Oh boy, have you been peering in my windows. I was just saying I need to clean up this mess. In fact, since my All-In-One was broken (and I frankly don’t print much) I actually went and bought a new one so I can scan all the notes and stuff taking up space!


    1. Amazing how this really strikes a chord with nearly all of is, isn’t it, MamaRed? It is so easy for the clutter to pile up if we aren’t ever vigilant?

  9. I don’t like the word hate but I hate clutter. I like to have a place for things and want things returned to their respective place when they are not being used. This has not always been the case. Because on the other hand I am a pack rat and have a hard time letting go of things so do have to function with both things. The older I get the simpler I want things because I know I am more productive when the clutter is not there. Thank you for a great article.

    1. I understand that well, Pat. I have a real need for order in my life and work to be able to be creative and productive. Being a pack rat can be a serious challenge. I have really come to understand over the last year how being a pack rat and keeping too much can really negatively impact your life. I’m pretty sure I need to write about the lessons I have learned from that and help others to break those habits.

  10. Boy, what a great list of 4 tips to improve my work space and increase my productivity. Looks like I have a couple areas that need attention before I close the office door tonight.

    1. Thank you, Carla. I hope this helps give you a productivity boost in your work.

  11. Great infographic and I love your take on increasing productivity!

    1. No, no, no. 🙂 A bigger desk just means more space for “stuff.” Good luck with the organizing, Yvonne.

  12. Marie, this is just the post I needed to read today!! We are in the middle of bringing my husband’s office home (into my office space). We have been thinking of ways to increase our productivity in this space and these pointers will help a lot! I am afraid that I have been guilty of piles of paper on my desk! LOL

    1. That can be a challenge, Sherie. Several years ago I moved out of my 3000 s.f. studio into a 10 x 10 home office, plus a little storage space in my garage. Boy was that a challenge. I certainly learned about what was really important and what was not so much. I do hope this helps make your transition easier.

  13. I definitely subscribe to this theory. When I cleaned up, I got so much more done in a short amount of time. 🙂 They key is to keep it that way!

    1. It definitely takes some practice to make keeping your work space organized a habit.

  14. Um. Well, my workspace isn’t looking great right this minute. This is a very helpful post, Marie, and I love the infographic. Thank you!

    1. You are most welcome, Shari. Hopefully it will help you get that work space whipped into shape.

  15. Great tips and ideas. I use a laptop so I don’t have any prime desk real estate. As a back pain sufferer, it is best to get up and stretch once an hour and walk around if possible. This not only helps your back, but it also improves circulation.

    1. So very true, Christy. I have back pain issues, too, and have finally learned not to keep myself planted at the desk all day. Not only is it good for circulation and muscles, it helps to keep you focused and thinking clearly as well.

  16. This made me laugh as I looked at my huge desk with 1 side of the computer clear & the other- well , lots of notes & lists & reminders. Your article also reminded me to GET UP, so that is what I shall now do, go downstairs & say Hi to hubby. The other thing I want to remember is to drink water.

    1. I found that keeping a water bottle at my desk (no snacks, though) helps with the hydration–and using a water bottle means I’m not likely to end up spilling on my keyboard.

  17. paper clutter makes me nuts! i have to have a clean desk!

  18. I totally agree with you. I remember the days where all we had were clients paper in our office. Since we went paperless, we have increased productivity not only in our office but our clients as well. No more checks only epayments, echeck, ACH or credit card payments saves $$$$ in the long run.

    1. I am finding that more records I can keep online, the easier and quicker my record keeping has become–and my productivity has definitely gone way up as well.

  19. I couldn’t agree more, Marie! Often when I’m feeling stressed all I need to do is take the time to clear my desk of the clutter and whew! – the mind settles down, as well. Great post and awesome Infographic – thank you!

    1. Isn’t it amazing how decluttering our physical space can declutter our mind and de-stress us. I know that my creativity goes way down when the clutter in my life goes up.

  20. I love this article. I have a clean desk. Kriya Yoga, Reiki and Tai Chi are my stress reducing tools. And now that summer is here, swimming is another tool for staying in shape and exercising.

    1. I love my clean desk, too, Barbara. It’s one of the goals at the end of every work day for me. Too bad it isn’t a goal for my kids as well. They like to stick everything on my desk.

      And I agree about the swimming as well. I have been waiting for some months for the gym up the street to finish their pool repairs so I can join and swim. Not only is it wonderful exercise, but it is also a great thinking time for me.

  21. I love this post, Marie! And the graphic is priceless! I find that if I stay off facebook, I increase my productivity. I now time myself…and allow only a certain amount of time on facebook. Of course, that does not include participating in social media groups. 🙂

    1. I have learned the same thing, Alexandra. I now designate a certain amount of time (generally after my work day is over) for social time on line. It definitely is making a difference in my productivity.

      1. Yes, it’s the only way…for me, otherwise I can get lost in Facebook and Pinterest as well. Again, thanks for sharing such a helpful post, Marie. Have a productive day! 🙂