WORK/LIFE BALANCING ACT

Spring cleaning helps organize your office — and your head

 
 
300 dpi Eddie Thomas illustration of man "spring cleaning" his attitude about work. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune/MCT)
300 dpi Eddie Thomas illustration of man "spring cleaning" his attitude about work. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune/MCT)
Eddie Thomas / MCT File

balancegal@gmail.com

You don’t need to wait for spring to clean up clutter in your life, but it is as good a time as any to rid yourself of clutter and stress and make room for a better work/life balance. Even if you never get to your closets, consider tidying your workspace, clearing your in-box and changing your habits to work and live smarter.

To boost your efforts, I’ve asked the experts for tips that are worth the effort:

Physical workspace: The layout of your office or cubicle space and the flow it creates plays a huge role in your mood, productivity and ability to juggle demands.

Professional organizer Gayle Jacobs suggests examining a few key areas: Is your desktop space too small, do you have enough drawers, are you facing a direction that heightens your productivity, and what exactly is piled on your desk? “Review what you have on your desk, eliminate what you don’t need (a dirty coffee cup, out of ink pens, folders with notes on completed projects) and invest in drawers and containers,” suggests Jacobs, president of Actually Organized in Miami. “You should have everything you need to get your work done within arm’s reach.”

She also recommends increasing productivity by boosting office lighting — rearranging furniture to face a window or unblocking a window that’s hidden behind a mountain of files.

Desktop clutter: Is there a pile of business cards staring at you like there is on my desk? Paula Rizzo, author of List Producer, reminds me that this often leads to important contact information getting misplaced, lost or just thrown out.

One of her favorite apps for that is Cardmunch, a free one that lets you scan and store contacts. Once you take a picture of a business card, the app converts it to a contact and links it to the person’s LinkedIn profile information, also displaying your network of contacts in common.

“Usually when you get business cards they stack up and you forget who is who,” Rizzo says. “But when it links the card with a profile picture it makes it easier to remember who they are and it’s something more useful now.”

Another likely source of desktop clutter is receipts. For me, filing receipts has never been a top priority, but letting them pile up makes filing taxes or an expense report more difficult. Jennifer Ford Berry, author of Organize Now! Think and Live Clutter Free, advises purging receipts you don’t need and scheduling a set time each week to enter or scan the ones you do want to track.

And, instead of letting credit card and bank statements pile up, Rizzo of List Producer recommends tidying up disorganization by using Manilla. The app gives you an organized view of all bills, financial accounts, loyalty programs, subscriptions and even your health care information — all accessed with one password.

Tech devices: With so much virtual space, it’s tempting to keep everything, filling the screen and memory like an overstuffed garage. I have gone years without cleaning my hard drive, and setting aside a whole day to do it isn’t realistic for most of us work/life jugglers.

Organizing experts recommend we tackle a tech clean up in short blocks of spare time and start by clearing duplicate and outdated files. If you’re like me, you tend to bookmark articles or sites you plan to come back to but often never do. It’s time to do some deleting because while bookmarks are hidden from site, they build up and occupy space.

In the age of digital clutter, nothing is a daunting to me as email overwhelm. List Producer’s Rizzo suggests an app called Unroll.me.

“We all sign up for newsletter after newsletter to get promotional deals, but all they end up doing is clogging up our in-boxes, causing mental and digital clutter,” she says. Unroll.me will go through your email account, locate every newsletter you’re signed up to receive, allow you to select those you don’t want, and unsubscribe for you. It also will let you “roll up” your subscriptions so they arrive in a single email instead of separate ones.

Relationships: Toxic relationships can not only spoil your personal life but damage your work life, too. Are there co-workers you need to purge from your office circle? Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, speaker and author of Bankable Leadership: Happy People, Bottom Line Results and the Power to Deliver Both , advises identifying the people at work who zap your energy and focus. Then, eliminate or limit your daily interaction and conversations with them.

You might want to go on a social media “unfriending” binge, too. I’m making time this month to go through Facebook and unfriend people I haven’t interacted with in a year. I have come to realize I don’t even know some of the people on my friend list. By unfriending them, I won’t miss the posts from people whose updates I most care to know about.

Schedule: If you’re like me, you have tasks jammed into your agenda that really shouldn’t be on there. Eurich, the organizational psychologist, says many of us have a busyness obsession . She suggests we decide our priorities and examine our schedules to see if we’re spending the right time on the right things.

“Look at what you can remove or delegate without it becoming career limiting,” she says. The most obvious place to look is at meetings you don’t actually have to attend. Instead of assuming you should go, ask the organizer why you were invited and opt for a recap afterward when possible, she advises.

Another approach to spring cleaning your schedule is eliminating habit clutter, says professional organizer Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out. By that, Morgenstern says, we need to scrutinize whether we are spending work time doing high-value tasks, or working more than necessary because we want to feel busy.

“You want to de-clutter those nonproductive habits that keep you at the office late doing busy work,” she says. “The reality is time away from work absorbed in enjoyable activities has a positive impact on the quality of our work output. You may need to spring clean your belief system.”

Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal, a provider of news and advice on work life issues. Connect with her at balancegal@gmail.com or visit www.worklifebalancingact.com.

Read more Cindy Krischer Goodman stories from the Miami Herald

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