I want to share a very simple tip that helped me to increase my productivity and feel more comfortable in my environment and about myself: Cleaning up! This means organising and tidying up your desk, workplace, your room or apartment — however big you want to take it. Learning to appreciate order and the huge value it can have for your life.
Our environment affects our mind. Imagine you are walking on the street and there is litter everywhere. You’re not seeing the litter and think: “Amazing — there’s litter lying around!” Instead it’s something that may annoy you or make you sad. It may just irritate you a little. It’s the same if we get to work. We sit down at our table and it’s a complete mess: stuff is lying around, there’s dishes and remnants of yesterday’s lunch. You can’t even put your elbow down without getting stuck to the table. Or maybe there’s just a mild disarray on your table with sheets of paper and notes lying here and there. All of this is a potential distraction from focused work.
If you want to progress in a concentrated, organised and productive way then it’s essential to align your environment with that goal. This is why keeping your workplace clean is amazing for increasing your ability to zoom in, get into flow and getting done what matters. Being tidy can also help your creativity. If you’re keeping your environment, mind and life in order there can actually be more time and space for creating things.
Mind and Environment
Your environment affects your mind and your mind affects your environment. This is like the relationship between our physiology (how we hold and move our body) and our emotional state. To shift our emotional state we can start by changing how we hold ourself, talk, breathe and move our body. Getting moving completely changes our emotional state. Our environment and mental state are likewise connected. How can we design our environment in a way that supports a clear, coherent and productive mental state?
A great way to put this into practice:
- Get into the habit of cleaning your desk before you start your work. Even if it’s just a few simple actions. This can be a great pre-work habit. After you are finished with work: again clean up your desk or workspace. When you clean up before and after this increases the probability that your space will be pretty clean most of the time. This is going to help you a lot when you sit down to work, when you see your desk or think about work. You’re going to feel like: “Yeah. There’s order on my desk. It’s ready for me to get to work.” This order in the external world is going to help you keep your mind in order. It will be natural to think in a coherent way. Less distractions on the outside equals less distractions on the inside. If you don’t believe me just try it out!
- Another way to do this is to have a “Refuge Space”. Right now I don’t keep the whole apartment in order, because I live with my son (and his mother) and it would simply be too much fuss, there are other priorities. I have a desk I use for work and that table I always keep clean. If somebody comes and puts stuff on it — I put it away. I just keep that table clean and thus it’s always ready for me to take out my laptop or a notebook and get to work. The cupboard that is part of my workspace I am also cleaning up regularly. So how big the space you are keeping clean is doesn’t really matter — it’s the intention behind it.
Action → Habit → Character
“The way we do small things becomes the way we do all things”. If you’re keeping things tidy on your desk then it might just start seeping into other areas. Maybe you notice yourself deleting unnecessary apps or keeping your desktop tidy, or you start giving away stuff you don’t really need, that’s just cluttering up your life. It can start with a very simple habit like cleaning your desk before and after work. Even if you just put books or slips of paper on a stack, pens and pencils back in a pencil holder and simply creating a little order. This great attitude of simplifying and organising your life that can have a considerably positive effect on your mental health. It can affect many other areas of your life down the line. Before you know it you have developed this great character trait of being more organised and can reap the rewards.
I’m speaking from experience. I used to be quite a messy person. I lacked structure and purpose in how I spent my life and my environment reflected this attitude. When I started changing both my environment as well as my attitude I started to “make friends” with structure and being organised. Once I adopted these values of keeping things tidy and focusing on what was really important to me I experienced many positive changes in my life. I was getting more of the results I actually wanted and spending my time deliberately and on my priorities — instead of wasting my life away in procrastination or confusion. It’s truly a great character trait to develop!
As your habits become your personality, like a magnet, you begin to attract like-minded people, information and circumstances. You start harmonising with people who, like you, value keeping their mind and life clean and focus on what matters. You will find information that takes you further in that direction and before long your life at large will begin to reflect the state of your mind.
Try out my suggestions — I hope that you can gain a lot of value from it. You can experiment with cleaning up your desk before and after work and see how it feels to you. Later check if you want to bring this attitude into other areas of your life. You can also take a look on my article about the unbelievable benefits of making your bed if you are curious.