Clean Up Your Act: 7 Tips On Spring Clearing Your Workspace

Spring decluttering may improve your productivity and creativity at work.

Spring decluttering may improve your productivity and creativity at work.

Used to be that you could physically throw out old files—stacks of papers, publications and manila folders—to stay on top of your workplace mess.

You can still do that, of course, but if you are in the mode of spring cleaning your workplace, you might clean out your digital files, your client list and bad habits while you’re at it.

Not that you have to go all KonMari, or channel Marie Kondo on your work space, but being tidier literally and figuratively makes sense.

Spring decluttering may improve your productivity and creativity at work. #SpringCleaning

Yes, Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, advises in her 9 Leadership Power Tools to “Carpe The Chaos,” but you don’t have to give in to a completely disrupted and disorganized workspace where you can’t find any of the information you need in order to succeed.

“Today’s changing gender roles and economic turbulence may feel chaotic and confusing,” Feldt writes. “But chaos also means boundaries become more fluid. That’s when people are open to new ways of thinking, to innovation, and to new roles for women.”

@TakeLeadWomen co-founder & #CEO @GloriaFeldt reminds us that today’s changing #genderroles and economic turbulence may feel chaotic and confusing, but chaos also means boundaries become more fluid and people become more open.

The big picture is more fluid, the up close is organized. Here are some takeaways we have trimmed down for you in a neat, handy list.

Secure the room. “This means treating both paper files and electronic files securely; destroying old hard drives, data sticks, cellphones and tablets; deleting old files; updating passwords; and making sure you have up-to-date versions of operating systems, software, apps and malware protection,” writes Marjorie Stephens, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana, in the South Bend Tribune. She adds, “On failed drives, wiping often fails, too; shredding/destruction is the practical disposal approach for failed drives. Avoid returning a failed drive to the manufacturer; you can purchase support that allows you to keep it and then destroy it. Device shredding can often be the most time- and cost-effective option for disposing of a large number of drives.”

Read more in Take The Lead on getting organized

Go paperless. Call me old-fashioned but this one is hard for me. I like my paper trail. Experts suggest you may want to consider eliminating the scraps of paper from your desk. According to Digital Trends, “If you aren’t actively consulting a piece of paper, it shouldn’t be on your desk.In today’s paperless workflow processes, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. You probably need access to a file cabinet to store some things for long term use, but that’s about it. For the rest, switch to digital documentation/signing or scan files into your computer so you don’t need to leave them around. If you absolutely need to keep some files close by, then try out a hanging file shelf or a desktop file organizer that will keep them all in one place, and don’t allow any to stay on the surface of your desk itself. You’ll be amazed at the difference this makes.”

Read another point of view  in Take The Lead on the benefits of mess

When in doubt, delete. The IT person at work a few years ago was so taken aback by my crowded laptop desktop that I think he still talks about it. If you have 100 icons on your desktop, nothing is standing out or all that special. I started putting on my desktop only files I needed for a presentation that day, then moving it off. It helps. For the Orange County Register, Liz Ohanesian interviews Stephanie Uchima-Carney, who runs a business strategy, coaching and consulting company, who says, “I spend one whole day deleting stuff off my desktop, cleaning out files, all of that. Get an external hard drive and use it to store the files that you don’t need right now. Purge what’s unnecessary. Don’t forget to check overlooked spaces like your download folder. You might be surprised at what is lurking there.” She adds, “The ease of finding things can save you, in the long run, hours of time. The five steps that it takes to click on different folders just to get to where you need is already 10 seconds gone.”

Clutter is a bad thing and it goes for people, too. Think about it, no one has ever said, “Gosh, I love your office! It’s so cluttered!” Kevin Daum writes in Inc., “Get rid of the stuff you know is clutter. All those free pens you got at that conference? Give them to your local school. Random pieces of scrap paper that are all over your desk? Recycle them. The books from grad school you like to reminisce over? Donate them to the library. Remember that tax and audit documentation only have to be retained for a certain number of years. You have to clear your space, before you can really clear your space.” He adds, “The key for the KonMari Method is that you tackle by category. That means tackling your entire client list in one swing, or considering all your client files at once. It’s the best way to see what you’ve got and what you really need. You can even consider your office wardrobe to be a category, even though you keep it at home.”

Every space has its place. Designate areas for distinct purposes instead of mushing everything all over your office area. According to AZ Business Magazine,  “The saying ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is especially true for your workspace. If you find yourself reaching for your cellphone or flipping through magazines during office hours, designate drawer space for things that distract from productivity.” Avoid eating at your desk. “While we all have days when working through lunch is unavoidable, stick to the kitchen area when dining. Not only will this keep your desk free of crumbs and wrappers, but the change of environment will refresh your mind and help you get back to business rather than lingering over your meal.”

Trying to be more efficient at work? Messy work space means messy mind. If you can’t find anything and your desktop is a disaster, then chances are you are not working at your most efficient level. #SpringCleaning

Messy work space means messy mind. You’ve likely heard this before, but if you cannot find anything literally, and your desktop in real life and virtually is a disaster, then chances are you are not working at your most efficient level. Sania Gupta writes in Entrepreneur, “To enhance your creativity and productivity; to reduce your stress level; to save time, money and energy; all you need to do is keep your home, office and mind clutter free. You must de-clutter right now to lead a peaceful and happy life. You need to organize small drawers, prioritize work to gain maximum productivity and get rid of all extra papers and files which aren’t required.”

Read more in Take The Lead on being happy at work.

Get help if you can’t part with things. Ask a friend for a favor by assisting you in editing down you work space. You do not have to get rid of the desktop photos you love, but do try to make it neater. And you can use an app to de-clutter your laptop. According to Bustle,“Even if you have a digital workspace, you may find that your computer is cluttered with unnecessary files, programs, images and other junk. It’s time to clean that out. Use a program like App Cleaner or Clean Master to help you clean out all the unnecessary stuff. You may also want to do some manual cleaning of your folders and files—which has the added bonus of speeding up your computer.”

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About the Author

Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldon