How To Declutter Your Desk For Increased Productivity At Work


The items you keep on your desk affect your work performance. Experts say that clutter is extremely distracting and can ruin your focus. 


Our brains appreciate order, and constant visual reminders from a disorganized space deplete our cognitive resources, decreasing our ability to focus. The visual disturbance of clutter heightens cognitive overload and can lower our working memory. A UCLA study found that when we’re around clutter, our cortisol levels rise, increasing our stress levels due to sensory overload.


In short, an uncluttered desk leads to increased productivity. Here’s what you should keep on your desk – and what you should get rid of ASAP.


What to keep on your desk


So, what should you keep on your desk to increase productivity? Very little, as it turns out.


Just keeping the essentials are important for a streamlined setup. If your desk has drawers to store some of the smaller items, that’s even better. The clearer you keep your desk surface, the more focused you will be.


  • A computer, monitor, mouse, keyboard, and chargers
  • A day planner or pad of paper to jot down ideas, events, or reminders
  • A drink (Or 3, according to The Atlantic
  • Office supplies such as sticky notes, staplers, pens, etc.


Successful people agree that keeping the bare minimum on their desk helps them get things done. 


“I try to work with clarity, simplicity, and portability. That’s why you won’t see much on my desk. Whenever I have visitors at my cube, the first thing they remark is that it looks like no one uses it. When I travel, sometimes people think it’s a vacant space.” – Steve Rubel, Global Strategy and Insights at Edelman


“Two computers, a cell phone (no desk phone needed), a small bottle of whiskey for the bad surprise, a stash of dark chocolate (82% cocoa) for twice-daily medication, a bottle of Pellegrino water and a pair of analog clocks as a reminder that our business is about art as well as science.” Michael Moritz, chairman of Sequoia Capital


“I have one big screen connected to a desktop. There’s little paper there since I’ve arranged pretty much everything online. You’ll see a few knickknacks, with some focus on my prior role model, Homer Simpson, and I just acquired something related to my current role model, Grandpa Simpson.” Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist


What to keep off of it


The first thing that has to go? Your phone, also known as one of the biggest distractors of our workday. It’s not enough to keep it on silent – it needs to be out of sight and out of mind so you can resist the urge to mindlessly scroll through Instagram. If you don’t need it for work, put the phone away in a desk drawer or even in another room and reap the productivity gains. 


Stressful to-do lists also have to go. Instead of being reminded of all the things you need to get done later, focus on the task at hand and get it done. Random bills and messy papers should be cleared off as well, tucked away in a filing cabinet or desk drawer. Make sure your line of vision is clear.


The best way to start your clear desk journey is to remove everything that’s currently on it, and then only add back the things you use and need on a regular basis. Start from scratch, which means removing any possible distractions so you can 100% focus on your tasks. 


Do you have any tips or tricks on how to keep a clean desk? Let us know by tweeting us @SaneBox