How to Make Your Workspace Work for You

When your work/life balance is out of whack, the remedy is often increased productivity. In order to be more productive, however, you need a workspace that's conducive to working, according to Fast Company contributor Josh Davis.

"Many of us don't adapt to less-than-ideal work environments as well as we could. More often, we just put up with them," he says "And in the process, we adopt a few common work habits that wind up making us needlessly spend a lot of extra mental effort just to stay focused."

There could be any number of things wrong with your workspace. One of the most common detriments, however, is clutter. If you want to increase your productivity, you should therefore start by cleaning your desk.

"Clutter creeps up, especially when we're busy. The memo you almost finished, a request from a friend, receipts to reimburse, and who knows what else sit desperately demanding your attention," Davis continues. "The reason [clutter hurts productivity] has to do with your brain's attention systems, which aren't designed strictly to keep you focused. They're designed to help you pick up on what's changing, threatening, novel, and so on. In other words, they help make sure we don't miss what's important in the environment."

According to Davis, people typically leave things on their desks as reminders. "If you think about what kinds of things you don't finish and need reminders for, you'll find that many of them signal hard and time-consuming tasks, and being reminded of them feels overwhelming," he explains. "Research suggests that the self-control needed to keep resisting these various reminders further wears down our executive functioning, which includes tactical things like our capacity for focused attention and decision-making. As those mental powers diminish, otherwise routine work gets harder to complete and takes longer."

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