Productivity Hack #7: Declutter Your Workspace, and Work on One Thing at a Time

The decluttering your workspace part of it is simply to remove all extra distractions, on your desk and on your computer. If you’ve got a clean, simplified workspace, you can better focus on the task at hand.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gather all papers on your desk (including any scraps, post-its, phone messages, etc), put them in your inbox, and process through them rapidly. (See 3 Steps to a Permanently Clear Desk)
  2. If you’ve got folders or stacks of paper on or around your desk, process them and put them away as in step 1 — listing them on your projects or action lists, and filing them out of sight.
  3. Get rid of distracting knick-knacks, posters, pictures, etc. A few photos of your family are fine, but if you’ve got a lot of other stuff, it’s probably distracting.
  4. Clear your computer desktop of icons. File or trash them, then turn off desktop icons so you’ve now got a clutter-free desktop. Close unnecessary windows on the computer (especially solitaire or minesweeper or whatever your current distracter is). Now choose a nice, serene desktop picture (and using a photo of a magazine model doesn’t qualify as serene).

Ahhh. A peaceful working environment. I also suggest using headphones if you have a problem with the ambient noise in your office, or people dropping by too much.

Now, with distractions minimized, focus on the task at hand. Don’t check email, don’t work on five projects at once, don’t check the stats on your blog, don’t go to your feed reader. Work on that one task, and work on it with concentrated focus until you are done. (See How NOT to Multi-task.) Then celebrate your achievement!

Removing distractions from your workspace and really focusing on one task at a time will greatly increase your productivity. If your distraction is reading Zen Habits … well, that’s OK. But only that one exception.

This post was previously published on and is republished here with permission from the author.

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