Here’s an unscientific but important question to ask yourself: How do you feel when you walk into your work space? Your workspace could be an entire shop, or your bindery equipment work area, or an office cubicle. Do you feel good or bad about the surroundings and overall environment of the workspace? If you don’t feel good, you should pay attention. Negative feelings detract from how well you do your job.
Here’s an example that just happened to me. Walking through my office, my foot snagged the handle of a plastic bag lying on the floor. Papers fell out in messy pile and I felt an instant flash of irritation. It wasn’t a positive feeling. An office cleanup has been on my list for a while and I was annoyed at myself for not having done it sooner. Then I felt a little frustrated that I had procrastinated. This distracted me from writing this article and it took several minutes to get back on track. So you see how it works.
Think about how you feel when you look at a mess. If you have all your folding machine tools strewn about in boxes or on a counter in no particular order, every job becomes a headache. You start by scrounging to find the tools you need. If it takes too long you get frustrated and start moving things around, making an even bigger mess.
Repeat the process enough and pretty soon every job begins with negative, frustrating thoughts and emotions. Mix in a little deadline pressure and you are living in a negative world and pretty soon you dread coming to work. Instead of focusing positively on the upcoming job and thinking about ways to do it better, you’re thinking about where you’re going to find a tool that should be at your fingertips. Or you’re thinking about getting to the end of the day.
Author and business coach Lee Milteer, in Reclaim the Magic, tells the story of how a brass bed in her home affected her piece of mind. “Every touch caused a fingerprint. When polished, this bed was a showstopper but polishing it was a stress to me. It cost over $100 to have people come in to polish, or I had to spend several hours cleaning it up.” She got rid of the bed and everything else in her home and office that was high maintenance. The result was a stunning improvement in her feelings about home and at work. Her business and relationships improved dramatically.
Decluttering—what it does for you.
Various university studies show that clutter increases frustration, stress, worry, and restricts your ability to focus. You process information differently in a cluttered, messy environment than you do in a clean, organized environment.
You save time searching. You save money by not buying things you already have. Fewer distractions allow you to regain focus and become more productive.
Decluttering—what it does for others.
A clean, decluttered workspace inspires confidence and trust. Visiting clients or vendors will have more confidence and trust when they see a clean, organized workspace. Think about how you feel walking into a sloppy, cluttered office or shop. Would you do business with that person or be inclined to strike up a friendship? Probably not.
Decluttering also increases profits. In one sense, lean manufacturing is decluttering with a purpose. Even if you are not a full-fledged practitioner of lean print finishing practices, you can benefit by swiping some of the tactics of lean. If you are in charge of a department or a whole plant, then you can lead the charge for decluttering.
It pays to read Setup Reduction for Printers by Malcom Keif and Kevin Cooper. As you go through your declutter process, it will take you to a higher level of print finishing productivity. Not only will you declutter your work area, every tool will have a purpose and a place to help you do a better job.
OK, I can hear some of the guys griping that we’re getting a little touchy-feely here. Yet if you let your feelings be your guide, they will clearly point out those areas which you want to improve. The worst feeling will likely point out the area you should address first.
Keep in mind that clutter can be somewhat subjective. In The Emotional Toll of Clutter, Jesse Sholl describes it like this: “A chaotic corner of art supplies can feel like an inspiring springboard — and a year later, if the supplies haven’t been touched, like a landscape of failure. In other words, identifying an item as clutter has more to do with how it feels than how it looks.” If some clutter is inspiring you and you’re making a million bucks, let it be!
So how should you go about decluttering? You’ll find a technique to suit your personality if you Google “how to declutter your workspace” or something similar. Now I’m going to pick up that pile of mail I scattered across the floor.
As always, please feel free to share your stories, comments, and suggestions below.