Last week we talked about making room for success. This week I want to give you some specific steps to take care of the physical clutter that may be holding you back. You may have heard that a cluttered workspace equals a cluttered mind. I have found this to be true.

If you are working in a cluttered environment, you are more likely to feel distracted by it. That pile of papers will always be calling for your attention. You may wonder what’s buried in that pile or feel discouraged that you haven’t taken care of it yet.

I know that when I am feeling overwhelmed, one of the things that provide almost immediate relief is to clear my work area. Not only does it take care of the clutter but it is a bit of a diversion, which allows me to return to my work refreshed.

When your work area is clean and organized, you can find things faster and work more efficiently. It also means that you will be less distracted so that you can focus on what’s important. Here are some tips to get you started:

Clear your physical space

In this post, I mentioned throwing everything into a box. Now, I realize it’s not quite that simple, but clearing everything off your desk is a great first step. I have two covered boxes I got from Ikea that matches my decor. These work great for pretty storage and also to quickly contain the mess.

Everything goes into the box when I am clearing my space. All the papers that have been piling up in my in box, the extra books, pens, cables, etc. Consider those things on your desk that aren’t useful. Pictures, knick knacks, or other items that are only taking up space and collecting dust all go in the box.

The boxes are a holding area until I can process what is in them. When I collect everything, I usually schedule a time to go through everything as soon as I am able. Unfortunately, schedules don’t always allow us to process immediately. Often when I clear the decks, I’m in the middle of a project and the break to clear things off and my clean space often sparks the creativity I need to continue.

Simple Organization

Organizing your space should be simple. My most used items are my inbox and actionable file folders. I have three main folders that I use:

  • To Scan: Almost everything we need to keep is scanned in and stored on Dropbox. I batch my scanning and do it in one shot, usually weekly.   
  • To Pay: This file doesn’t get used too much. Most of my banking is done electronically, but every once in awhile a statement or other item to pay lands in this folder.
  • To Do: This is everything else that may need to be addressed such as school forms and paperwork.  

To keep my inbox relatively empty, I try to handle paper just once. When opening the mail, I do it right next to the garbage. Most of the items either go into one of the three folders or are shredded.

Processing Your Items

If you follow me, you know I am a big fan of GTD (Getting Things Done). David Allen’s process for mastering workflow is to collect, process and organize. Once you have collected items, whether it be the boxes I mentioned above or the items on your to-do list, you need to decide what to do next.

If it is actionable, you need to decide what that next action is and Do, Delegate or Defer. My rule is that if it will take a minute to do myself, I do it. If it’s an appointment that needs to be scheduled, add it to your calendar and include any important information in the details of the appointment.

If there is someone else who should be responsible for the item or task, you delegate it to that person and set a reminder to follow up. When the task will take longer, you can schedule the task to be done and file in an action folder.

Maintaining

Once you have a nice clean workspace, it’s important to maintain it.  Your calendar and your to-do lists should be reviewed daily as part of your daily planning. You should also set a time weekly to get current; this includes processing what is in your inbox or containers.  

Finally, make it a habit to clean up your desk at the end of your day. Maintaining a clean and organized work area will not only boost your productivity but provide an inviting space for you to do your best work!

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