The so-called “desktop metaphor” has been around on personal computers for about 40 years and is still the dominant way of visually organizing information. It was originally designed to emulate a physical desktop on which you put folders, files, and other types of documents and devices.
Regardless of how you feel about computer desktops, they can become cluttered just like a physical desktop, which can be distracting, stress-inducing, and hinder your productivity.
If your desktop is filled from top to bottom with icons, are you aware of whether just glancing at that desktop hundreds of times throughout the day causes any feelings of stress? Perhaps you catch an icon for a document you’re working on out of the corner of your eye. It may cause a thought or worry about how you’re going to complete that document. The thought may be fleeting and you may only be semi-aware of it. However, consider the cumulative impact of having so many experiences like this throughout your day just because of how many times you are looking at that desktop.
Here are a few tips you can follow to remove the clutter from your desktop.
Relocate the Clutter
If you like having all of those icons on your desktop because you feel that they are easy to find, I have one simple suggestion that will let you access everything just as easily without cluttering your visual space and creating any anxiety. Just create a single folder on your desktop called “Desktop” and move all of the icons from your desktop into that folder. Now your desktop is clear, but you can still access everything that was in it by opening that folder.
You lose virtually no productivity by taking this step while potentially making a very significant gain in how relaxed, calm, and de-stressed you feel when looking at your desktop.
To make sure you keep enjoying the benefits of this practice over time, you must close the folder after opening it so that its contents are no longer visible. Otherwise, you will be seeing the clutter just as regularly as you would if it were scattered around the desktop.
As an additional step, you can create a small number of subfolders within your new desktop folder. Keep it very simple — you might just have a folder for apps and separate folders for different types of documents (word processing, spreadsheets, photos, etc.). If you make too many folders, you will start making it hard to find documents and reduce the benefits that this simple method provides.
Maintain the Habit
Now, you merely need to keep your desktop from becoming cluttered again over time. The most common ways in which this happens occur when installing new apps or creating new folders on your computer. Move those icons and documents into your desktop folder.
Even if you’re someone who loves having a full desktop, try out this approach and see how different you feel when booting up your computer in the morning and seeing a completely tidy space. You could even use a desktop background image that you love in order to stay motivated to keep it from being blocked by countless icons.
Once you make the small investment of time and energy required to start using this method, it takes very little effort to maintain it over time. You can get a huge payback in feeling calm while maintaining very high productivity.