That stack of junk in the corner may seem harmless enough, but for most of us, clutter has an adverse effect on our energy levels and mental clarity. You know how great you feel when you clean out a closet at home? Here are five ways to reduce the clutter in your work life.
1. Pick a drawer, any drawer. You don’t have to spend an entire work day dodging meetings and letting your calls roll into voicemail to clear the clutter in your office. Just tackle one drawer, particularly one you find yourself rooting through often, like the top drawer of your desk or your most active file drawer. Next time you’re on a conference call or any long phone call that doesn’t require your complete focus, start sorting through that drawer for things that can be tossed. Dead files, outdate reports, pens that don’t write and business cards from people you don’t remember can all be jettisoned. If you have a newspaper handy, spread it out on the floor and dump the entire contents of the drawer right there. Pick through the rubble for the items you’d really like to have at arm’s reach (active client files, scissors, highlighters, a calculator) and place them neatly back in the drawer. Can you live without the rest of the stuff on that newspaper, including the stray paperclip and a mechanical pencil that may or may not be out of lead? If so, just roll it up and drop the whole thing in the trash.
2. Create some adrenaline. For the big jobs, like your credenza with the towering stacks of papers, folders and old mail, or the six-drawer filing cabinet that houses hard copies of everything under the sun, you might want to block off a few hours, but promise yourself a hard stop at whatever time you choose. Then use that deadline to create a little urgency, and start heaving things into some industrial waste bin you’ve dragged into your office. Then file the stuff that’s worth keeping and don’t worry too much that you might have tossed something you’ll need later on. Comfort yourself with the idea that you’d never be able to locate it in all that mess anyway.
3. Give your desk a clean slate every week. Plenty of productive people create piles on their desks as they move through their days. If you usually let those piles grow day after day, you might want to try wiping the slate clean once a week. On Friday afternoons, toss what you can, move anything possible to someone else’s desk for them to deal with, and file the rest. Then use a disinfectant wipe to get rid of any spilled coffee or crumbs, and to clean the grime off your keyboard, mouse and phone. When you show up Monday morning, your desk will be clear and inviting.
4. De-trash your car. A lot of us apply different standards of cleanliness to the interiors of our cars than we do to our homes. You wouldn’t tolerate stale French fries and empty soda cans on the living room carpet, but what’s that rolling around in the floorboard of your car? If you (or your kids) spend a lot of time on the road, you’re probably not going to outlaw eating en route, but you could reduce the trash by having everyone take it with them when they get out of the car. Failing that, just use the wait as your gas tank fills to de-litter the backseat, while you’ve got a big trashcan nearby. Then you won’t have to worry you’ll get surprised by a client needing you to drive.