Getting organized and creating a good structure in your work is one thing; maintaining it is something entirely different. The new working method usually works perfectly for a few days or even for a few weeks. But, after that it is easy that the newly established habit begins to deteriorate and instead of working according to the method we have decided we would follow, we slowly slip back into old habits and are soon back where we started.
The Dutch research-team Keizer, Lindenberg and Steg showed how disorder tends to lead to more disorder in their study on graffiti and vandalism in urban environments (“The Spreading of Disorder”, Science 12 December 2008:322 (5908), 1681-1685). My extensive field-experience tells me that their conclusions are applicable to structure as well, meaning how we organize our work and work-places. If our structure begins to deteriorate in some way the disorder tends to get worse and eventually it becomes difficult to re-establish order.
So, if our structure can be in place and ready to go every morning it is more likely that we maintain it throughout our day.
Leave the office the way you want to enter it in the morning
Many types of businesses employ some form of “closing-procedure” which describes what to do right before leaving work in order to make the start of day easier for whoever is first to open and get started tomorrow. And this method is not only appropriate for those who work in a café, bar or shop, but also for those who return to an office every morning and want to find it in an inviting and favorable state.
To me this closing-procedure primarily concerns leaving my desk in order. You see, I have noticed how I prioritize better if I am surrounded by as little clutter as possible and clear desk-spaces. This way there is nothing distracting me and I am not needlessly reminded of a task I need to do sometime later, but not right now.
By finishing your day consciously you can create the conditions you need to maintain your good structure tomorrow as well.
Hence, create your own closing-routine today.
- Think of for example three things you do before you leave the office. These might for instance be:
- Gathering all loose notes which have accumulated on your desk and place them in your inbox, hence creating more empty space on your desk and making it easier to deal with the notes in the morning.
- Put your work-tools, such as pencils, stapler, and so on, in their designated places.
- Throw or store away any documents or files which also have gathered on your desk or computer desktop throughout the day. If they sum up to more than a handful it will be much easier to find them if you put them wherever you keep documents regarding the same matter or subject in your ordinary storage-place.
- Process the e-mail inbox until it is empty.
- Wash your coffee cup.
- Pour out the water left in your carafe.
- Take out the material you know for certain that you will want to get started with first thing in the morning.
- Erase everything on the whiteboard.
- Determine what to-do-task you definitely need to finish tomorrow.
- Or think of something entirely different that will give you a good start tomorrow morning.
- Think of a way to be reminded of your new routine as every day comes to a close. Paste a note to remind yourself where you cannot miss it (On your screen? Desk? Door?) or create a recurring reminder in your digital calendar where you have entered the checklist of what you have decided to do before you leave the office.
Get in the habit of creating good habits
If you make a habit out of ending your day in a way which will make you thank yourself in the morning it will be much easier to maintain the great structure you have managed to establish. The risk that you fall back into old tracks decreases and the likelihood that you will be able to enjoy the positive effects of your new working methods increases. Instead of feeling drained the minute you step into your office in the morning, you will feel inspired and ready to get going with today’s tasks.
What is your method?
How do you make sure you get to start every day on a positive note? Don't be shy. Share your thoughts in a comment.