We've all heard the saying, "less is more." We've also heard if your desk is messy, you are a genius, but do you really want to be surrounded by all that clutter when you're working?
Tracy McCubbin, de-cluttering expert, business owner, and author of the forthcoming book The Clutter Code says many business owners maintain their home as a functional space, while completely disregarding their offices. In fact, their office becomes their 'dirty little secret', the place where they can call chaos their "process" and disorder their "filing system."
UCLA did a rigorous, nine-year study, the results of which were published in the book Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century. It demonstrated the Los Angeles parents (in the study) experience real psychological stress of overwhelm associated with clutter and disarray.
For me, a clean, de-cluttered office gives me a feeling of relief and like a stress-filled weight has been lifted off my shoulders. When things are unorganized, I feel overwhelmed and like my to-do list is even longer.
If you want to feel more organized throughout the year, try these tips.
1. Set the time aside to do the task.
This applies to your email inbox, like everything else on your to-do list. If your inbox is out of control, set aside some weekend time to begin at the very beginning and scroll all the way through, deleting what you don't need and answering those forgotten notes.
You will feel so good when you've done those favors you were putting off. Moving forward, schedule time every day to answer emails, so they don't build up.
I schedule three times a day to check my email. Every evening at my last check, my goal is to get to zero. This has made me so much more productive because I'm more focused. I no longer have notification popping up on my phone or in the extra tab to distract me. I get more done.
2. Move all your bills and financial statements to digital.
This will help you tame your paper clutter. Even better, set up auto-pay. Then all you will get is a notification of your statement and an email telling you the payment is processing.
Saving time is vital in getting more done and being strategic about how you schedule your day. This is a huge time saver.
3. De-clutter the visual distractions in your workstation.
We all love a good dose of motivation, but too many signs, sayings, and reminders hanging around your desk can be a distraction.
While I still do have some artwork from my kids hanging around, I only leave out what I need to see, like my client list of things to do that day.
"After a while, we stop 'seeing' them at all," McCubbin says. "Fight stagnation by swapping out pictures every few months."
4. Clean up the cup of pens on your desk.
Make the most of the next time you're on hold and empty all those pens onto your desk. Then test them all. The ones that are dried up? Go. The ones you don't like and never use? Go. That leaves you with an uncluttered collection of pens that you will actually use.
5. Clean out your work bag.
Take 10 minutes and de-junk your work bag.
"Whenever I do this I am appalled that, over a few months of assisting clients, making house calls, and running around with my four-year-old niece, my purse has turned into a garbage can with straps," McCubbin says. "You'll feel so much better in your next client meeting when you can gracefully pull out your laptop without disgorging them."
6. Recycle last year's unread magazines, newspapers, and articles.
If you didn't read them last year, you're not going to read them this year. Take them down the hall to paper recycling or donate them to your local library or pet shop for cage lining.
Maybe you've been collecting information from a conference or luncheon. Be realistic: Are you ever going to go back and reread that giant binder of information from a conference you attended four years ago?
If you can't bear to part with the whole binder, pull out the relevant materials and file those. Ditch the rest.
7. Reorganize your computer's desktop.
Have you been saving documents there for years? Is it so cluttered with icons you can't find what you need when you need it? Take an hour and open each one. File or delete them all.
"Recently, I had a client who found $600 worth of Amex e-gift cards that she had made PDFs of--and then completely forgot about," McCubbin says.
You shouldn't just clean up what's physically around you--what's staring at you in the face is just as important. Most days, that's your computer.
Who knows what treasure you might unearth when you de-clutter, and how productive you could be?