“Organizing my office is a low priority, I have more important things to do with my time.”
“I don’t have time to organize my office.”
“I just have too much to do to stop and organize my office.”
I bet you’ve heard or said something similar to these statements at least once — maybe more. I know that there have been times in my life when these phrases came across my lips.
Reality may be, however, that the process of organizing your office can actually improve your productivity and also make you a more creative worker (not the results, which also can be beneficial, but simply the process). A few years ago, researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that alternating between mindful work (work that requires intense thought and focus) and mindless work (routine activities that require very little processing power) enhances your efficiency and creativity. Their findings were discussed in the article “Enhancing Creativity Through ‘Mindless’ Work” in the July-August 2006 issue of the journal Organization Science.
The text of the study specifically named organizing processes that count as mindless work:
… performing simple manufacturing line tasks (e.g., filling supply bins), making photocopies, simple cleaning chores (e.g., cleaning laboratory equipment), performing simple maintenance tasks, sorting or collating tasks, and simple service tasks (e.g., unpacking and stocking supplies).
The research concludes:
Such mindless tasks, introduced into otherwise chronically overenriched work, may provide critical opportunities for reflection and reinvigoration.
Changing your focus to simple organizing tasks gives your brain time to mull over more taxing ideas in a relaxed state and gives you energy to propel you to your next round of difficult work.
As you set up your workday tomorrow, try alternating mindful tasks and mindless tasks and see if it improves your overall productivity and creativity. When you get to the points in your schedule when you’re ready for mindless tasks, file or sort through papers, refill your office supplies, and dust off your monitor. Taking the time to organize will give your mind the opportunity to reflect and re-energize, so that you can be a better worker.