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23 Sep

Clean out reasonably

Datum: 2021-09-23 22:17

When you have so much papers and stuff sur­round­ing you in your office (or on and by your desk if you are seat­ed in an open office land­scape) that you spend more time than you would pre­fer shuf­fling things around to clear some space to work in, as well as look­ing for things you know are here some­where, you will even­tu­al­ly get the impulse to clean and clear it all up.

You will work more effi­cient­ly with the mate­r­i­al you want to direct your atten­tion towards at the moment if you have less old and irrel­e­vant things in sight. With less clut­ter you will have more space to spread out mate­ri­als rel­e­vant to what you are cur­rent­ly work­ing with, hence enabling a prop­er overview and mak­ing it eas­i­er to find what you are search­ing for since it does not get lost in the gen­er­al mess.

Per­haps you feel reluc­tant to get start­ed at first and feel intim­i­dat­ed by the sheer mag­ni­tude of the task, but after a while you will feel that it is time to real­ly clean up. You begin clean­ing with zest and deter­mi­na­tion, and start going through what­ev­er is hid­den in all the piles. You place a few things due to be returned to oth­ers or thrown away in tem­po­rary piles which you want to deal with sep­a­rate­ly later.

Just as you are real­ly get­ting going, some­one knocks on the door. It is your boss who says Say, could you come with me for a few min­utes; some­thing has come up which we need to solve right away.” You leave your half-fin­ished clean­ing-fren­zy, and you office looks, if pos­si­ble, even worse now halfway though clean­ing it. The urgent mat­ter you were sum­moned to solve turns out to be rather com­pli­cat­ed, so when you return to your office after a while, you have so many urgent things you need to attend to that clean­ing will have to wait.

Uncom­plet­ed is undesirable
Semi-imple­ment­ed struc­ture is almost worse than not hav­ing any struc­ture at all. You have begun to cre­ate struc­ture which you then do not have time to ful­ly imple­ment and com­plete, and at the same time you can­not just put mate­ri­als any­where since you then ruin the attempt made at devel­op­ing some struc­ture. I find it stress­ful to have an idea and ambi­tion to devel­op a struc­ture-solu­tion which I can­not imple­ment right away. I con­tin­ue work­ing in an insuf­fi­cient man­ner and impa­tient­ly hope and wait for an oppor­tu­ni­ty to fol­low through with the idea. While wait­ing for this moment to arise, things are more dif­fi­cult to find and I do not know where to store new things while waiting”.

This also applies to any dig­i­tal clean up you might need to do.

Bal­anc­ing on a slackline
Get­ting start­ed with clean­ing your office like this is like going out on a slack­line for a moment. We are bal­anc­ing in a high­ly tem­po­rary state where some­thing can sud­den­ly hap­pen that throws us off and we fall. We are tak­ing a risk by assum­ing that we will not be inter­rupt­ed and then not be able to com­plete our clean­ing project, which will result in your office being a frus­trat­ing mess for some time.

One way to avoid this sce­nario is to lim­it your effort of clean­ing up to just start­ing to clean what you will have time to com­plete before get­ting inter­rupt­ed next time. This way you will not have to live and work in a phys­i­cal chaos for an unde­ter­mined peri­od of time due to bit­ing off more than you could chew.

Try this

  • Think about how often you usu­al­ly get inter­rupt­ed in your work. It can be by col­leagues who need your help (and which you want to pri­or­i­tize help­ing), incom­ing phone calls, urgent e‑mails, peo­ple who spon­ta­neous­ly vis­it you, or that you remem­ber how you missed some­thing and now have to drop what­ev­er you are doing since it must be done imme­di­ate­ly. Can you man­age to work undis­turbed for fif­teen min­utes; five min­utes; an hour; half a day?

  • Look around. From all the items, papers and so on that sur­rounds you, what could you deal with in that esti­mat­ed inter­val of unin­ter­rupt­ed time?

  • If you want to and feel like it; which lim­it­ed area (such as a shelf, draw­er, pile, par­tial pile, file, disk or some­thing else) do you want to go through and clean out next?

  • Decide to clean this cho­sen area at a par­tic­u­lar time. Sched­ule a meet­ing with your­self in the cal­en­dar and set a reminder to sound a few min­utes pri­or to the activ­i­ty just in case it would slip your mind.

Clean out with­out risk­ing to dis­turb your cur­rent structure
If you clear­ly define a lim­it­ed area or amount of mate­r­i­al which you will have time to go through, clean or clear up before you are pre­sum­ably inter­rupt­ed next time, you will be able to get rid of super­flu­ous mate­r­i­al as well as main­tain a well-func­tion­ing struc­ture. By fol­low­ing this sim­ple process you will get to check more tasks off your list as done (and feel good about doing so) than if you wait­ed for those qui­et days dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days when every­one else is out of the office when you do your mas­sive effort to clean your office.

How do you keep things tidy?
How do you clean away irrel­e­vant and obso­lete mate­r­i­al quick­ly, eas­i­ly and con­tin­u­ous­ly? Tell me!