Creating a Clutter-Free Workplace and Mindset

Are Workplace and Mindset Connected?

Some people link genius to a messy workspace. In fact, a study from the University of MN concluded that people with messy rooms and clean rooms both generated the same number of ideas. Even Albert Einstein famously said, “if a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, what is an empty desk a sign of?” In my experience, there needs to be a balance between the genius with a messy desk and the person struggling to keep everything afloat. In the end, keeping our work area clean (and our homes!) is one of the keys to uncluttering our mind and making more mindful choices.

And I’m not saying that lightly at all. It can be hard to make sure all of your work gets done while also keeping everything relatively clean. However, it’s time we start investing time into improving our work with the understanding that it is going to benefit us. A study at Princeton surmised that distractions in our visual environment can impede our brain's’ ability to function and visual clutter competes with our brain’s ability to pay attention and tires out our cognitive functions over time. Sound familiar?

I get it: we are ALL juggling a lot at any given time, but keeping a clean workspace in your community and hospital pharmacy will keep your mind clear and will also leave less room for errors. At home, keeping a clean workspace will make you more efficient if you have the opportunity to work remotely. AND you will be able to focus on enjoying your home, your family, and relaxing instead of worrying about the mess and how much time it would take to get organized.

Right now, it feels like both the medical community and the world at least are becoming interested in more topics like mindset and environmental connectedness. Just look at the effect that Marie Kondo has had! To get more insight into how you can create a clutter-free mindset and workplace, keep reading!

Is Your Mindset Cluttered?

Now, when people think of “clutter,” chances are they are thinking about a messy room. However, our minds can become cluttered just as easily as any physical space. A cluttered mindset occurs when our mind is buzzing with too many distractions, with its focus split in too many directions to be efficient and effective.

And when the brain has too much on it’s plate, your functions decrease:

    • At filtering information

    • Switching quickly between tasks

    • Keeping a strong working memory

    • Catching errors

    • Being efficient with your time

To best understand what’s going on in your world, both professionally and personally, physically and within your mind, you’ll need to take time to reflect. Ask yourself if you consistently have too much to do with not enough time to do it in. Ask yourself if you’re sacrificing time with your family and friends to “catch up.” Ask yourself if your workspace and home are becoming more cluttered as a reflection of your inner struggles. Finally, ask yourself what you’re willing to do to improve things!

The Benefits of Having a Clutter-Free Workplace and Mindset

Remember, a clear mind is able to focus more, remember more, and be less stressed. For individuals who work in the medical community, whether you’re a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or student, that focus and zen is going to be what keeps you from making mistakes. Effectively, it’s what keeps the care that you provide to patients at the highest quality possible.

When you are suffering from a cluttered workplace and mindset, you’re setting yourself up for distractions and burnout that are taking away from your success.

In pharmacy, a cluttered space can be full of journal articles to read, student evaluations to fill out, lists of quality improvement projects to start, doctors to call, prescriptions to fill, prescriptions that need an intervention, and so on. While we are good at prioritizing and taking care of most of the emergent “clutter” right away (patient care!), a lot of the other reminders and organizational tasks are left to do when we have more time.

Over time, those reminders and “to do” lists keep piling up, creating clutter in our workspace AND our minds.

In light of all this, the benefits of keeping a clutter-free workplace (and mindset) are clear: you’ll be able to focus on what needs to be done, you’ll more motivated, you’ll face fewer distractions, and you can provide the best care possible for your patients and yourself!

Decluttering Your Space for a Better Mindset

Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by taking the time to declutter your space. In a world where most of us don’t have a lot of time, view this as an investment and a clean slate to start with in order to improve your mindset and motivation.

Start off by asking yourself the obvious questions: Is your car clean? What about your closet? What about your workspace at home and work?

Getting those areas in order first will make a big impact and enable you to keep going. You can then implement schedules to help you keep up with this type of work in order to create a lasting impact on your mindset. And, if you have a family, don’t forget to enlist them! Oftentimes, we end up trying to do it all and, for everyone’s benefit, that needs to stop.

If this is something you want to do - read Gretchen Rubin’s new book or a Marie Kondo book. This trend is changing people’s lives because they are able to create space in their lives for the things that matter instead of being overwhelmed by the mess.

Set Goals, But Know This Can’t Happen Overnight

There are some easy things that you can do right away to feel like you’re making headway – but big changes usually require a deep dive and a big overhaul before you can maintain a level of mental and environmental tidiness that makes you happiest and most effective.

Usually, you’ll have to dedicate yourself to a huge mindset shift because you have to change the way you manage your time and your things while you’re at work and at home.

An easy first step to declutter the thoughts in your mind is through meditation.

“Uncluttering”, or emptying, your mind through meditation has many benefits. Although that may sound like trendy pseudoscience, the benefits of meditation were the topic of a recent Harvard Health article. And the world at least is finally catching onto the advantages of meditation as a study published in 2018 by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that 14% of American adults reported meditating in the previous year compared to 4% in 2012!

If you’ve been feeling “fuzzy” or overwhelmed from too many things running through your mind, make sure to give meditation a chance! Studies have shown an improvement in these types of feelings after the individual has been meditating for just a few weeks. In general, people who meditate demonstrate improvement in cognition, especially executive function.

Best of all, making small changes (like picking up daily meditation) will allow you to start taking the steps you need to achieve a clutter-free workplace and mindset.

Other tactics, like creating set schedules, setting realistic goals, prioritizing your work, booking off time for yourself, and enlisting the help of others, can all help you be successful in this endeavor.

So, does a clean desk = more productivity? Not necessarily, because everyone’s tolerance for clutter is different. However, for those that need it, this process can be one of the first steps to getting your life in order!

Joanna Simmon