Declutter to Increase Your Productivity

“I just don’t have time.”   “My e-mail box is full.”  “I should organize my desk but I don’t have time.” “I’ve got too much to do to get to all the e-mail I have coming in.” Do any of these statements sound familiar?  Most of us can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of paper and electronic data that we’re required to process every day.  But there is help!  In just 15 minutes a day, you can declutter your desk, your office and your in-box.  Let’s start with the desk and office.


Marla Cilley, a.k.a. The FlyLady, mixes housekeeping advice with personal insights. Some tips relate more to the home than the office, but they still apply.


  1. You can do anything for 15 minutes.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and work as fast as you can to get as much done as possible.  Pick only one particular task at a time.
  2. Have decluttering equipment handy: recycling box, garbage bin, boxes, markers and even cleaning clothes.  Mark the boxes “file”, “give away”, “throw away”, “personal” and “put away”.
  3. Work your way around your desk, bookcases, credenza (and even the floor!), moving clockwise, decluttering and cleaning as you go.  Start with your desk and one of those stacks of papers. Another day, you may decide to declutter the filing cabinet with the same boxes.


When the timer goes off, that’s it for today. It took a while to get the office cluttered up, so it may take a few sessions to get things tidied up.  


Keep cleaning clothes available.  We like Swiffer dusters as they pick up dust without sending it airborne.  And a good supply of compressed air for keyboards (preferably take them outside) and electronic devices disposable cleaning cloths, for computer screens, are essential.  Chances are, if your desk if cluttered, the office cleaning staff won’t touch it, and you’ll have to do it yourself or it won’t get done at all.  Until of course, you get it clean and orderly!


If you find that you’re struggling with what to do with paper that you think is relevant but not important enough to start its own file folder for, consider scanning it and creating a virtual folder.  Then its searchable for when you do decide to look for it.  Make sure the file name is relevant to what you’ll use for searching on in the future.  Then you can safely recycle the piece of paper.   When your filing cabinet starts overflowing consider doing the same with old files.  Instead of relegating paper to boxes of archives that you may need to refer to in the future, scan old documents and electronically file them.

Now, let’s get to that in-box. Technology writer Luigi Benetton says that cleaning out your e-mail in-box is a good first step to reducing stress and increasing productivity.  Benetton offers these five steps to cleaning out the in-box in this post from his TechnoZen blog. 


  1. Trash it
  2. Unsubscribe it
  3. Mark it as Spam
  4. File it
  5. Set up folders for certain e-mail to be automatically filed

Details about all of this are in the blog post.  Benetton notes that many people use their e-mail to manage tasks, remember meeting requests, and maintain contact lists.  While this approach may work for some, there are other, and perhaps better, programs to help do all of this, thus reducing the number of e-mails in your in-box.

Taking 15 minutes a day to tidy your office, and another 15 minutes to clean up your inbox will give you a productivity boost and help organize your work!  It’ll also feel really good at the end of the day when you leave your desk tidy and organized.


2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription services agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and other healthcare providers across Canada and the US.  Having recently introduced WEBscribe, a client interface portal for document management, 2Ascribe continues to implement and develop technology to assist and improve the transcription process for physicians and other healthcare providers.  As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to physicians and other healthcare professionals, medical transcriptionists and office staff, as well as of general interest.  Additional articles may be found at


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