No matter what you do for a living, it always helps to be as productive as possible at work. Doing so can not only buy you some job security, it can also set you on the right path toward a promotion.

Unfortunately, in the course of your job, you might encounter several barriers to being productive, from chatty coworkers to a generally noisy atmosphere. But if there's one thing that could be killing your productivity at present, it's none other than a cluttered, messy workspace. And the sooner you address it, the more focused you stand to be.

Man searching for something underneath folders on a messy desk.


It pays to be clean and tidy

Maintaining a well-kept workspace is crucial for a number of reasons. First, when desks and other surfaces are left unclean, dust and germs can linger, causing everything from allergies to unwanted illnesses. In fact, the average employee loses nine working days a year due to being sick, so a little time spent cleaning your desk could help you avoid that fate.

But germs aside, tidying up your workspace could also make you more focused on the tasks you're assigned on a day-to-day basis. After all, the less physical distractions you have staring you in the face, the easier it'll be to do your job.

If you're not convinced, consider this: Harvard University conducted a study wherein students were provided both cluttered and uncluttered workspaces. Those in the former group were able to work steadily for 11 minutes without interruption, whereas those in the latter group stayed focused for 18.5 minutes.

And it makes sense. Having a neat, organized workspace can help you avoid wasting time searching for key documents, not to mention having to shift papers around just to access your computer mouse. Furthermore, a clean, tidy workspace can lead to lower stress levels on the job, thereby reducing downtime and sick time.

Prioritize cleanliness at work

If your desk is so buried in piles of papers you can barely see its surface, it's time to make some changes immediately. First, do a massive cleanup, even if doing so requires you to stay late at the office for a night or two. From there, carve out time in your schedule to keep your workspace neat on an ongoing basis. A mere 10 minutes at the start or end of each day could be what it takes to stay tidy.

At the same time, don't hesitate to ask your employer for the tools you need to stay clean and organized. That could mean having your company invest in more filing cabinets or storage, as well as provide employees with access to cleaning supplies to dust and disinfect their desks as they see fit.

Finally, schedule a once-a-month paper purge, where you go through the stacks of documents on, in, or around your desk and, ideally, eliminate some. That could involve scanning items and storing them electronically so that you have access to the data you need without having it take up physical space.

A clean workspace could be just the thing that improves your productivity on the job and helps your boss recognize what a rock star you have the potential to be. So don't resign yourself to that mess. Pledge to keep your workspace neat, and you'll benefit from it in the long run.