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10 Oct

Cleaning out is just half the work…

Datum: 2012-10-10 12:00

One of the most com­mon things par­tic­i­pants from my cours­es decide to do by the end of our day togeth­er is to clean out their desk the next day when they are back in their office.

And this is of course a good deci­sion to make. 

But, when I hear this, I can also hear warn­ing-bells chime. 

Back to square one

I see the ambi­tion to clean out the desk as a sign of the long­ing to have few­er dis­trac­tions in our dai­ly lives, more space and time to work on what feels right to do right now, and sim­ply for a lighter bur­den to bear. 

When we only decide on clean­ing our desk, there is a sig­nif­i­cant risk that we after a while have a clut­tered desk again. If we only rid our­selves of what is on the desk with­out solv­ing the root of the prob­lem, it is only a mat­ter of time before we are back to square one. 

Being sat­is­fied with just clean­ing your desk is as if the politi­cian respon­si­ble for traf­fic would let his breath out as soon as the traf­fic jams ease up around noon every day, and think Great, now that problem’s solved!”. 

… and refin­ing your stor­age-space is the oth­er half

But, I am going to clear my desk” in com­bi­na­tion with and at the same time, I will change or make improve­ments on how I store what I want to keep”, is the gold­en key to success. 

Do this

  1. If you want to have few­er things clut­ter­ing your desk, take out your cal­en­dar and sched­ule an hour when you will clear your desk prop­er­ly (sure, you might not be able to do so in an hour, but it’s a step in the right direction). 

  2. When it is time to clear your space, start pro­cess­ing what­ev­er is on the desk. 

  3. When you are going through the piles you wish to get rid of, think about why the items are on your desk rather than neat­ly filed away in binders or hang­ing file fold­ers or scanned into dig­i­tal form. There is always a rea­son why not. And it is not that you are a bad per­son” in any way. It might for instance be due to one of the fol­low­ing three reasons:

    • You have left it out on the desk so that you will not for­get to so some­thing that involves the mate­r­i­al in question. 

      Per­haps you need to find a way to keep track of what you need to do that doesn’t require any desk-space, such as a to-do-list in Out­look or in an app on your phone. In the to-do-task that you cre­ate instead of leav­ing the mate­r­i­al or item on your desk, refer to where you have put the mate­r­i­al so that you will not have to look for it when you want to do the task. 

    • You intend­ed on fil­ing it away, but end­ed up putting it in a pile just for now. 

      Your present stor­age space or sys­tem for papers and oth­er mate­ri­als is prob­a­bly too cum­ber­some or com­pli­cat­ed. Could you scan the mate­r­i­al instead so that you have it eas­i­ly acces­si­ble and out of sight, only in a dig­i­tal for­mat? Could you get rid of the binders and instead store things in hang­ing file fold­ers which will pro­vide you with a bet­ter overview, are eas­i­er to file mate­r­i­al into, go through and clear out, and where you can store many dif­fer­ent types of mate­r­i­al? Could you move your book­shelf clos­er to your chair so that you only have to spin it 90 degrees to access your shelves? 

    • You left the papers on your desk in fear of los­ing them if you filed them away amongst all your oth­er material. 

      I am guess­ing that you have sev­er­al places you store this par­tic­u­lar kind of doc­u­ment or mate­r­i­al in and you there­by risk hav­ing to look in more places than one when you need it again. Make an active deci­sion on which of all the places you will store this type of mate­r­i­al in from now on, and gath­er all the scat­tered mate­ri­als in that one loca­tion. Make sure to always have an emp­ty binder at hand (if binders are your cho­sen stor­age-tool) or an emp­ty hang­ing file fold­er (if this is your pref­er­ence), so that you can file away any new papers or mate­ri­als with ease and with­out hav­ing to wait for the next time you are pass­ing by the sup­ply-stor­age space.

  4. Decide to make one improve­ment and do so after con­sid­er­ing the rea­son piles tend to form. 

  5. Define the first step you will take as a to-do-task you can do in one go and decide when you will do it. 
    When you have com­plet­ed the task, you have tak­en a con­crete step towards a life with few­er dis­trac­tions where you do not have to spend so much time clear­ing your work­space. When you feel like it, repeat the steps list­ed above and take anoth­er step. And another.

What is your way to less clutter?

How do you keep your desk free of papers so that you avoid get­ting dis­tract­ed while work­ing? Add a com­ment to let us know.