That Leaning Tower of Paper on your desk doesn’t merely pose a malpractice risk – it might also be adding to your stress.
And though you might think the mountain of case files shows how busy you are, in reality it’s probably making you a lot less productive.
“Experts agree that cluttered, disorganized, and messy workspaces negatively impact our productivity,” writes Karla J. Eckardt on the Clio blog. “Eliminating physical clutter can help eliminate mental clutter, which results in improved mental health and increased productivity.”
And it’s not just your mental health that’s compromised by a sloppy workstation, it’s your mental agility as well. Studies show that your brain actually works better in a decluttered environment.
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8 Tips for a More Productive Workplace
You don’t have to be Marie Kondo to get your office in order. Here are eight pointers to get you started:
- Recognize that neatness helps prevent calamities and crises. Things are less likely to slip through the cracks in a well-ordered office. Consider the Northern Pacific rattlesnake, whose instincts illustrate this principle. “These predators don’t succeed if they are distracted by needless stimuli and have been observed regularly sweeping aside vegetation and debris on their hunting grounds,” says psychologist Jennifer Verdolin in Psychology Today. “It’s believed that less mess makes it easier to hunt and catch prey. We might not be stealth predators, but research shows that excessive clutter and mess is distracting and inhibits our ability to concentrate and focus.”
- Do a little bit every day. Break large cleanup efforts into small, bite-sized chores. From Dr. Verdolin: “Rattlesnakes don’t wait for mounds of debris to accumulate. Every time they go through their territory, they do a little tidying up. If you don’t let things pile up, it is much, much easier to stay organized.”
- Stop hoarding. Do you really need that shelf full of decades-old CLE manuscripts? Or piles of outdated magazines when current content is easily available online?
- Understand that staying calm is good for business. See this paper in the Villanova Law Review, which makes the business case that boosting your well-being also boosts your bottom line.
- Have a vision of what your ideal workspace would look like. The mere act of visualizing will help make it a reality. Follow-up by writing down specific goals and action items. Keep track of your progress.
- Keep things in their proper place. This applies to everything from case files to coffee cups. “Without good organization, you misplace items and have to buy them all over again,” writes Dr. Verdolin. “Soon you will find yourself with two or three scissors or hammers.
- Make it a group effort. And make it fun. Schedule a Saturday clean-up day for your staff. Put on music, order pizza, and give them Monday off as a reward.
- Have a File Retention and Destruction policy. Develop a system for moving files from open to closed status, including where closed files are stored and when they can safely be destroyed.
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.