“Neurologists are facing yearly reductions in reimbursement for rendered services. These reductions arise from changes by Medicare, Medicaid, and third-party payers to achieve cost savings,” say Dr. Peter Donofrio et. al. in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.

But you probably already knew that. The question is, “What can you do about it?” For a start, your in-office charting and reimbursement procedures need to be up-to-date and meticulously followed. And nothing can derail these efforts like a cluttered office.

In a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers found that working in a cluttered environment caused people mental fatigue and self-regulatory failure. They solved problems slower and felt a loss of personal control.

Further research, by Sabine Kastner, M.D., Ph.D. at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, shows that the brain is not very good at blocking visual clutter. When there are too many objects competing for your attention, it becomes harder to filter them out and get a specific task done.

In addition to a loss in focus time, clutter can also lead to a loss in actual time spent working. A recent study by Brother International estimated that about a week’s worth of time is lost per person, every year “as a result of looking for misplaced items in the office.”

Where to Begin

Julie Morgenstern, author of Organizing from the Inside Out says that identifying the actual causes of your cluttered condition will help you find an effective, lasting solution. “It will free you from the self-criticism that saps your energy before you even start organizing—and allow you to enter the process with hope.”

According to Morgenstern, clutter results from three main problems: 1) Technical errors, 2) external realities, and 3) psychological obstacles.

  1. Technical errors are mechanical problems inherent to your organizational system. These include problems like items not having a home, inconvenient storage, and more stuff than storage space. These problems are usually the easiest to identify and remedy.
  2. External realities are problems outside your control, that are impacting your organization. These include staffing budgets, limited space in your office, and uncooperative partners. When you accept these realities, you can better work around them.
  3. Psychological Obstacles are problems of your own making. These include things like being unclear about goals and priorities, fear of success, perfectionism, old habits, and fear of change.

If the thought of tackling these problems throughout your entire office is too much, start small. Start with your own desk.

The importance of a clean organized desk is not new advice. Saunders’ book on Medical Office Management advises that desk clutter can result in a myriad of problems like lost files, errors and incomplete information, low morale, and confusion.

Once you have tackled your own space, keep it neat and organized by setting a Clean Desk Policy for yourself. Then set one for everyone else in the office. A clean desk policy makes good organizational sense, and it also goes a long way toward maintaining patient privacy rules in your office.

Whether you start small like this, or dive head first into a full office redo, solving an office clutter problem is important for your business. With reimbursements as low as they are, you can’t afford to leave any stones unturned—or cluttering up your office, for that matter.