“If you want to change the world, start by making your bed,” Navy SEALs Admiral William McRaven recommends. If you wake up and make your bed first thing in the morning, McRaven explains, you’ve accomplished the primary task of the day. That sense of achievement will propel you to tackle even more difficult ones as you go about your day. But, could a dirty desk be destroying your productivity?
Even if you don’t succeed, a made bed means a better day tomorrow. That tidy bed is a tiny bit of encouragement that tomorrow is a new day, and it will be better.
The boost of making your bed is proof that the small things do matter. Our workspaces work the same way: They should be our safe havens, the places we go to crank out our to-do lists. They should reflect our personality and function as we need them to.
But unlike a bed, there are many ways to “make” a workspace. Here are a few to consider for yours:
- Keep it clean.
A clean space will give you a sense of order you need to start your day. Doesn’t it feel nice to sit down, knowing exactly where all of your belongings are? You have the freedom of space, with no dirty coffee mugs or old papers lying around, to spread out and dive into your work.
A clean space will also show those around you that you take yourself seriously and are qualified to do your job. A messy space may discourage your boss from trusting you with important work or documents out of fear that they’ll be swallowed up by your desk.
Messy workspaces also tend to be dirty workspaces, which can harbor germs and allergens. Getting sick can drastically drop your productivity, not to mention that of any co-workers who get sick as a result of your messy desk.
If your office doesn’t have a cleaning crew, clear off and wipe down your desk at the end of each day. Keep the more extensive office clean by doing one cleaning chore each day. And if your office does hire cleaners, help them out by decluttering and taking out the trash as needed.
- Make it personal.
Research suggests that we are more productive when we are working in spaces that reflect who we are. We feel more comfortable with familiarity.
You know yourself best, so do what inspires you and sparks your creativity. Start with functionality: You need a comfortable chair and a desk with enough space to spread out. Perhaps you need a chair for your appointments.
Then, think about the form. Maybe that means pictures of your friends and family, or perhaps it means Christmas lights and posters of your favorite ‘80s rock band. Whatever it is, it should make you feel proud of your space and fresh well into the afternoon.
- Eliminate distractions.
With so many distractions around us at work already, it’s essential not to bring more into the mix. There’s a difference between personalizing a space and adding distractions to it: A digital picture frame is a personalization; a TV is a distraction.
Be considerate of your co-workers when sprucing up your area. Maybe you love your flashing neon light, but take it down if the person who sits next to you says she can’t focus when it’s on. Remove anything audio, too: Ask your neighbor before cranking up your stereo or playing loud videos.
An excellent middle-ground solution is noise-canceling headphones. Not only can they keep background noise from distracting you, but they let you watch your Taylor Swift videos without upsetting others.
- Add some life.
When sprucing up your desk space, it’s essential to add a little life. Although living things are a great way to do it, life can also be built into a space metaphorically.
If you’re sick of sitting in a dark space, ask if you can move your desk closer to a window. If not, what about adding a desk lamp or a floor lamp? A coat of paint can make a big difference, too. Bright, vibrant colors can add positive energy to space.
Better yet, give your green thumb some exercise. Many desk plants, like tillandsia, need little more than air to grow. Research the look you are considering, the smell, and, of course, the maintenance of popular office plants.
Keeping your space neat, tidy, and personal will have a meaningful impact on your mental health. Your desk may not be quite as cozy as your bed, but it can be every bit as therapeutic. Don’t underestimate the impact of that on your productivity.