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3 Ways to Declutter Your Mental Workspace

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Anyone who has built a business or worked in the startup industry knows that staying focused and refreshed is key to success. While you learn plenty of useful skills in business schools, nobody teaches you how to remain focused in the high-pressure environment. After several years spent building my own businesses, I’ve found a few ways to stay sharp and motivated.


1. Develop a routine.

In a startup’s formative stages, business is fluid; roles are not well established and there are more challenges to fulfill than people there to address them. As a result, you end up with constant distractions -- days where nothing substantial seems to get done.

Take back control and develop a routine. Setting a 15-minute calendar appointment each morning to reevaluate your previous day’s progress is a small task that will help you prioritize what you would like to accomplish during the day. Break up your to-do list into two categories: must-do activities and secondary items. This will help dedicate your mornings to the essential and give you ample time to do housekeeping work in the afternoon.

Related: 11 Tweaks to Your Daily Routine Will Make Your Day More Productive

2. Review and evaluate.

From raising capital and developing the product to implementing a new sales and marketing plan, entrepreneurs can wear many different hats during the course of their day. However, it is important to take step back from the day-to-day chaos and review the team’s progress and efficiency.

In order to do so, set aside one day each month to get out of the office, sift through priorities, and regroup with your core team to revisit the opportunities and challenges for the upcoming quarter. This not only gives you a holistic view of the company, but also forces you to acknowledge truly important tasks, instead of always running to put out the proverbial fires This monthly ritual can help you track progress and maximize efficiency.

3. Compartmentalize.

In today’s always-on world, founders and their team members can’t seem to unplug. Cornell University discovered something as simple as noise in the office can lead to a decrease in productivity, increased stress, and lower morale.

Related: How to Fight Denial and Start Tackling Your Biggest Problems

Break up your day into windows of “effort sprints,” where in you minimize interruptions by turning off email and messaging notifications while working on a task. When working on a must-do task, stick to it. The research is clear incessant multi-tasking stunts productivity by as much as 40 percent.

Remember to allocate time in the middle of the day to de-stressing, whether that be a walk or a quick lunch devoid of work. If you can’t get out, book a small conference room or find a quiet spot to take a few moments to yourself. Use the peace and quiet to refocus and reenergize. This is especially beneficial when multiple challenges are fighting for your attention.

Bonus tip: Manipulate your environment.

Your surroundings play an important role in your mental health. To help keep my mind clear and focused, I take a Spartan approach with my desk, removing any clutter and keeping as few things on the table as possible. A cluttered workspace becomes a distraction with so many items demanding attention. By clearing it out and leaving an open space, it gives me more room to spread my creative thinking.

Related: The War on Clutter: 8 Ways to Edit Your Workspace and Life

In an environment where everyone is constantly connected and things are always in motion, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to keep sight of larger goals and maintaining balance. By sticking to a schedule, reorganizing priorities, compartmentalizing and even changing your environment, you can avoid burning out and successfully stay refreshed and focused on what matters.

Mahesh Rajagopalan

Written By

Mahesh Rajagopalan is the CEO and co-founder of Picpal, a real-time photo collage chat app, and the co-founder and president of Resolvity, a leading provider of cloud-based speech recognition and authentication technology that automates customer service calls for Fortune 500 companies.