Boost Your Productivity (And Bust Stress) With This Easy Desk Makeover

A cluttered desk is not a good look. But if those tattered files from '98 aren't getting in the way of getting your job done, what's the big deal?

Kieran Legg |

Well, as it turns out, being the office slob could be hurting your mood and derailing your productivity. New studies have shown that clutter can lead to anxiety which in turn can trigger unhealthy coping mechanisms (such as wolfing down greasy takeaways at lunch and watching Youtube instead of filing that report that was due two weeks ago).

Related: 12 Office Essentials To Make Working From Home A Cinch

You might not mind the mess, but subconsciously – well, it’s messing with your head. Your move: you could just slide your desktop trinkets into a dustbin. Or, you could upgrade your cluttered corner into a productivity-boosting workstation with help from organising guru Heidi Meyer (of Cloud 9 Organised). Pick option B.

Step 1 – Reduce and Declutter

“Your work environment should be tranquil and conducive to getting stuff done,” says Meyer. “So, your number one priority is setting up systems that make it easier to keep things clean and organised.” Here’s how:

  • Clear your desk and sort the clutter into sections on the floor. “You want like with like,” says Meyer. Stationery has its spot, documents have their own pile, and receipts can be stacked together.
  • Now, take stock: which items are unnecessary? Think: old calendars and caricatures of your boss you doodled during a meeting in 2017. Those go in the bin.
  • With the items that survived the purge, create a priority system. What are items you always need in reach? Those belong on your desk. What items do you use on a weekly basis but not every day? Those go in your drawers. The rest? Box ’em up and stash them at home or (neatly) under your desk.
  • Pro Tip: Invest in a few drawer organisers to compartmentalise your supplies, recommends Meyer.

Related: Try These 5 Scientifically Proven Tips For Being More Productive

Step 2 – Refresh the Look

While a minimalist workspace will help clear your head, the right decorative and organisational touches can boost your productivity and spark your creativity.

  • Replace photos of your loved ones with new holiday snaps of you and the fam together. “It keeps things fresh but familiar,” says Meyer.
  • Worn out stationery will drain your energy. While that hole punch has notched 20 years of service, it’s time for a ceremonial send-off.
  • Plants have been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress, but keeping a potter alive in those stuffy office climes could ramp your anxiety instead.

'Many artificial plants look just like the real thing', says Meyer. Her pick: these realistic-looking silks from Distinctive Spaces

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Related: 8 Desk Accessories To Improve Your Workspace (& Your Productivity)

Step 3 – Seal the Deal

That new-desk feel won’t last long unless you change your habits. You created the clutter, and without holding yourself accountable, you’ll do it again. Meyer recommends getting into the habit of putting stuff away when you’re done with it. It’s best to dedicate the last 10 minutes of every work day to making sure everything is back in its place.


Compact and practical, the NoaPop Laptop Stand is the ultimate desk accessory.

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