Clutter overwhelms the visual cortex, the area of the brain that processes visual information. A messy desk, then, means your brain has to work harder just to accomplish the same tasks. Josel recommends dividing your desk elements into past, present, and future. The past is anything you don’t regularly use (old but important papers, for instance); move those items to a file cabinet or storage box. Prime desk real estate goes to the present—things you need now, like your computer, pens, journals, paper. Direct future gear (extra supplies, stationery) to a nearby shelf or bookcase.
A reassuring caveat: Achieving a totally clear desk isn’t just difficult; it may be counter-productive. “We need a certain amount of clutter to operate normally,” says Princeton University neuroscientist Sabine Kastner, MD, PhD. “A completely sterile desk area is depressing—the brain needs some stimulation to be productive.”