Tuesday 20th March 2018 marked the first day of spring here in the UK. The start of this season is (traditionally) a time for cleaning and organising – hoovering places that haven’t seen the light of day since last year, decluttering the junk drawers, and getting everything in order. Typically spring cleaning is something we do in our homes, and studies show that carrying out these tasks can drastically impact our physical and mental health, helping us to feel less stressed and get better sleep.
With so much evidence showing the benefits of a good clear out, the question is: why don’t we extend these same practices to the workplace? Here’s a list of five things you could try to get started today:
Scrap the paperwork
When a project is complete, it’s tempting to hang on to every component of it – often in the form of paperwork. This can build up quickly, and sometimes it seems easier to shove it into a box file or cabinet to hide it from view. Many of us also experience the ‘I-might-need-that-at-some-point’ moment that stops us from binning paperwork, causing us to put everything on file.
Instead of holding on to papers (unless absolutely necessary), why not exchange this habit for another? If you have access to the original digital file, simply back it up on an external hard drive to ensure it’s safe – then throw the dreaded paperwork away. Better still, try to go paperless as much as possible (one of the many advantages is that it’ll make hording harder!)
Declutter your physical (and digital) workspace
While messy desks have been associated with intelligence levels, general untidiness can make many of us feel less-than-organised. It wouldn’t take long to ditch the things we no longer need inside and on top of our desks, to make everything easily accessible.
This decluttering could also extend to email inboxes. Many of us use our email as an online to do list, reminding us of the most pressing issues. It can be overwhelming to use our email in this way (especially after returning from a period of absence) and makes it easier for some tasks to become buried – or forgotten altogether.
Why not take some time to completely clear your inbox? It might seem like a daunting task, but it’ll allow you to ditch all the messages you don’t need, file the ones you do, and reassure you that nothing’s been forgotten. Once your inbox is clear, it’ll be easier to keep this habit up – then you’ll only have to deal with the most recent emails.
Rethink your to-do list
At the end of the working day, many of us think ahead in a series of fleeting mental notes (or use our emails as to-do lists!) While this might work in some ways, it can be hard to feel organised when you arrive at the office first thing in the morning. Everything’s suddenly a bit fuzzy, and it takes time to go back through yesterday’s tasks to write the to do list for today.
One of the simplest ways to combat this is to write tasks down ahead of time, the day before they need to be undertaken. Making a note of everything you need to achieve the following day means arriving at the office knowing exactly what to do, and helps to compound those tasks in your memory – so you won’t waste time and energy worrying that’s something’s been forgotten.
Take time to reflect
Spring cleaning in our homes is a reflective practice in itself. When we’re going through stacks of paper work and other belongings, we all take time to consider which items we really need to hang on to – and which we’re happy to get rid of.
You could apply this same reflection to your workplace spring cleaning, and think about the elements of your job that have (or haven’t) worked well over the last year. What do you want to do less of, and what do you want to keep? This might mean evaluating a project that achieved great results, or analysing particular working habits that increased your happiness, productivity or overall wellbeing. This reflection could help you to decide what to ‘throw away,’ and what to hang on to.
Don’t restrict ‘cleaning’ to spring
Once you’ve found some new habits and practices and they’ve been in place for a while, think about other ways to clean up your workplace. Take time out regularly to reflect on any new approaches that are working for you, and consider why they’ve been beneficial. What else could you change or improve? You could reflect on this monthly, quarterly, or in intervals that suit you best – without restricting it to being a once-a-year task.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on spring cleaning your workplace! Do you think it’s worthwhile? What are your plans? Let’s keep the conversation going via Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section below.