"...a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind..."
Albert Einstein famously said "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"
Arguably, people who maintain a clean and tidy desk tend to be more organised and on top of what is outstanding and needs to be actioned as opposed to an environment where everything is mixed in together and not in any real semblance of order.
Of course there is always exceptions to any rule and we all know someone who seemingly moves with chaos yet is still high-performing and fully functional and effective.
That said, it certainly makes sense that when everything has a place and there's a place for everything, we know where to go and can easily obtain the item or information we need at any given point in time.
In today's world the same is true of electronic systems as well as our physical environment. Whether you work in a home-office or a corporate setting, your workspace should be functional and be designed to encourage efficient and effective productivity.
Your psychological mind-set is where you need to start!
Sort ongoing work into short-term and long-term is highly effective so you can then prioritise, set your focus where it's needed first and allocate resources accordingly.
File and archive things that has been resolved and completed so they don't continue to distract you from your task-at-hand.
Leave your workspace in a tidy state at the end of each day to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed just by walking to your desk.
Have an in-tray, an out-tray if appropriate, and a rubbish bin within reach
Limit the amount of paper and printing you have on hand - save a file electronically or bookmark or screen shot things you need later on. Even using a larger screen display/monitor will help reduce the need to print things out to read
Scan documents that hit your desk and make use of email and electronic communication tools
Do filing and revisit your task list regularly - when filing is up-to-date and tasks/projects to-do are separated from stagnant or closed and completed tasks, you are primed to be most effective
Reduce clutter of excessive trinkets like vases or photoframes or jars, etc. A digital photoframe with multiple snaps of your most-loved is a good substitute if you are someone who is inspired by displaying photos on your desk
Tidy up and wipe down/dust surfaces once a week (if for no other reason than hygiene)
As mentioned above, at the end of the day, leave your desk in a state that you don't feel (both physically and emotionally) overwhelmed walking into the next morning.
Having a clean and tidy physical and mindset is a habit. Practice it on a regular basis and for most of us, pretty soon it won't be something you need to think about and will become your natural way of working.
Watch your productivity increase and stress levels decrease! You can thank us later ;-)