My Project blog stressOnce upon a time, when I worked in the corporate world, my desk and work space was nearly always clean and tidy. It was the most stressful environment I’ve ever been in. Keeping things organized help me retain a shred of control, which in turn helped control the stress. A little.

Einstein noted that a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind. There’s a nugget of truth to that observation. We intuitively understand that clutter is a negative thing. And in fact, it is. It can physically interfere with work objectives, making it as stressful as any environmental stressor, like open offices or bad lighting.

The consequences tend to be opposite reactions that lead to the same result. People either ramp up the activity level or they start to shut down. Either way, productivity plummets.

Most small business owners I know would like to change something about their work space. And many would like a little less chaos and more organization. But if your work environment tends to cause you (or your people) real stress, take control:

First, organize your work space, whether it’s your office, your cubicle, your tool box, or the computer table at home! File what needs filing, organize projects, and clear some space. Then, actually clean it. Starting with a clean surface just feels more efficient. At the end of the day, clear your space again. If you have the option, personalize your space in any way that’s appropriate. Every little bit allows you to maintain your sense of self.

Next, organize your time and work. Keep track of your projects or work assignments if that’s practical, or at least calendar your time at work, marking out meetings or errands. This is especially helpful if you have projects you need to work on over a few days – plan your progress each day. Keep track of when you get distracted or tend to waste time.

And, don’t forget breaks – don’t just refill your coffee cup … stretch, do a couple neck rolls, a few deep breaths, and then maybe a few minutes of a game or Facebook on your phone.

Now your stress can come down a level. You’ve regained control and more importantly, some breathing space.

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