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Simplify Your Work Challenge Step One: Clear the Clutter

Over the next ten weeks, I’m going to issue a challenge to you – to simplify your work life, to eliminate unessential busyness – all for the aim of having the time and energy to focus on what is most important in your life.

Our first step is to clear the clutter from your work space – so find a few hours to complete this step!

Share your progress and learn more  at LinkedIn Group: 10 Steps to Simplify Work

Some Thoughts on Clearing the Clutter

I can still recall the coaching session in which my client, after listing the many challenges she was facing on multiple fronts: a heavy workload, a demanding boss, a young child, a distant husband, an ill mother, and a recent move to a new town – stood up, grabbed her purse and ceremoniously dumped the entire contents on the table. Now this was not a tiny, little purse. It was a roomy tote – and an amazing variety of things dropped out. A wallet, change, a phone, tissues (both new and used), cosmetics, pens, notes, and an assortment of other items that are too many to classify. The heap of things filled the table and some spilled over to the floor..

And with a determined voice, she said to me, “My life is a mess right now. And I need to start somewhere. I can’t fix all the things that are wrong right now, but I can clean out my purse. I’m starting there.”

I often find myself there as well. Seems as if every time I have too much going on in my life, the first step I take is to clear my desk (literally into piles of things) and put things in order. Even though it may cost me precious time that I feel I don’t have, it helps me get focused and calmer.

When our physical space is cluttered, our mind tends to be as well. When we lack order in our physical surroundings, we expend too much time search for things or getting distracted. When our workspace is clearer, so is our mind.

With clutter, I encourage you to take several passes. Begin with the easy stuff. Then repeat and purge those things that you hesitated on in the first round. And repeat again….this time with the courage to go deep. Challenge One is to clear clutter from one part of your work space. It may be your desktop or your drawers or that bulging filing cabinet or your bookshelf.

Challenge One: Clear the Clutter Blitz (55 minutes)

  1. Select one area of your work area that you want to tackle (desk, drawers, filing cabinet, bookshelf, or closet)
  2. Gather up a trash can, a recycle bin, a cardboard box and your phone.
  3. Set your time for 55 minutes. Put on some kick ass music.
  4. Take a “before” photo.
  5. Pull everything out of the workspace you selected. Yes, I did say EVERYTHING!
  6. With each item, do one of these things with it:
    1. Pitch It – right in the trash can (or recycle bin). Right NOW!
    2. Pass It Along – put it in the cardboard box and give it to someone who has a need for it
    3. Photograph It – take a photo of mementos, awards, and other keepsakes that you can part with and then either pitch them or pass them along
    4. Put It in Its Proper Place – if it’s a keeper, find a place to keep it!
  7. Take an after photo (please share in our LinkedIn Group) and celebrate your good work!

Challenge Two: Electronic Treasure Hunt (90 – 120 minutes)

  1. Dig out every piece of electronics you’ve stashed away. This can include old phones, PC’s, hard drives, printers, cameras and all those cords that go to something (but you’re not sure what).
  2. Sort your items into one of three piles
    1. Donate – working items that local non-profits or schools would be able to put to good use
    2. Recycle – non-working or terribly outdated items that need to be recycled responsibly
    3. Sell – items that have retail value
    4. Reclaim – items in good working order that you will keep and use
  3. Do some web research to find where to sell and donate electronics and how to recycle e-waste in your community.
  4. Remove all data from devices you are discarding or selling. Some tips on how to do that are here.
  5. Block time on your calendar to wipe devices clean, sell, donate and recycle.
  6. Deliver electronics to the appropriate place – and delight in feeling lighter.

Resources I Recommend

  • Sarah Bahn Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance: 365 Days to a Simple and Balanced Life was a HUGE inspiration for me 15 years ago. I still follow many of the practices – and each day will lead you to a better place! Time magazine says “Sarah Ban Breathnach might be described as the Isaac Newton of the simplicity movement.” The book is set up with a short reading every day and I admit it, is geared for women. She does have a version for men – and I’d be curious to have some feedback about this version!
  • Because I have manufacturing roots – the 5 S system resonates with me – a structured process that enables higher productivity, less frustration and a sense of order. The 5 S’s stand for Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Great for shared workplaces – and I’ve seen peers use it successfully in their individual work areas.
  • And I would be remiss not to mention the Kondo method, described in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. While Marie Kondo share more tips on organizing your home drawers than your desk, the philosophy will guide you well.

More to explore

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