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08 Feb

How to make clearing and cleaning easier

Datum: 2024-02-08 06:00
Wooden shoe lasts of various sizes are lined up on shelves in a workshop.

Let’s say you want to cre­ate bet­ter struc­ture at work. You are con­stant­ly over­whelmed and want to get orga­nized so that it becomes eas­i­er to focus on the right thing at the right time.

You make up your mind to clear a spe­cif­ic some­where of all the items clut­ter­ing it, which pre­sum­ably are old and should be got­ten rid of. You might have eight whole binders just tak­ing up space in your book­shelf, or have a com­put­er desk­top full of all kinds of ran­dom icons, short­cuts, and doc­u­ments, or per­haps there is a whole bunch of doc­u­ments (which do not belong there) in the top or main fold­er of the cloud ser­vice you use.

You think to your­self, I’m just going to clear this mess up. It won’t take more than fif­teen min­utes, then I’ll be done with it.”

For you who pre­fer lis­ten­ing to read­ing, this post is also avail­able as an episode of the Done!” pod­cast:

Falling into the trap

You get to work. But, pret­ty soon you might fall into a very com­mon and clas­sic struc­ture-trap. Per­haps you are aware of the loom­ing dan­ger and clev­er­ly avoid it, but I see this hap­pen­ing to so many of my clients, that I would not be sur­prised if you fall into it as well. So, what is this trap? Not long after start­ing to clear that space or place up, you find some­thing remind­ing you of some­thing else that needs to be done — or worse, some­thing you should already have done ages ago.

Sud­den­ly gripped by stress (or even shame) my clients then start work­ing on the unearthed task and when they fin­ish it, twen­ty min­utes have passed. The fif­teen min­utes they had set aside for clear­ing the mess up are long gone, and since they are not even near­ly done, what start­ed as a good ini­tia­tive regard­ing bet­ter struc­ture, soon feels like a failure.

The unfin­ished task hangs uncom­plet­ed over them and instead of alle­vi­at­ing it, only adds to the bur­den of unfin­ished work.

We made things worse instead of better.

An alter­na­tive that will make you feel better

If they had only stopped at writ­ing the task they dis­cov­ered down imme­di­ate­ly and then con­tin­ued with (and fin­ished) clear­ing the space, place or area, they would have got­ten to expe­ri­ence that small but deli­cious vic­to­ry of actu­al­ly fin­ish­ing the task — and would have still remem­bered” to do the task they dis­cov­ered some­where in the mess.

Mer­ri­ment instead of misery.

Do this

When you are in the mid­dle of doing some­thing and think of some­thing else you need to do as well, ask your­self how long this oth­er thing will take to do:

  • If it takes less time to do than it would to open your to-do-list and write it down, do it straight away.
  • If it, on the oth­er hand, takes longer than putting it on the list, write it down and con­tin­ue doing what you were in the mid­dle of.

In oth­er words, stick to your last” (if you allow me to use a rather worn expres­sion refer­ring to cob­blers, but rel­e­vant to our sub­ject by a slight stretch of our imagination).

More done, yet less clean­ing lost in the process

If you do not try to catch any ball (or task) thrown at you (by your­self or oth­ers), but instead duly note them and con­tin­ue doing what you had pri­or­i­tized, you will fin­ish more of the tasks impor­tant to you. Few­er things dis­turb and inter­rupt you, and you will focus with greater ease on what is before you.

What’s your method?

What is your method or trick for not get­ting stuck, dis­tract­ed or side­tracked when clean­ing or clear­ing things up? Feel free to share with me in an email.

(But, keep in mind that clear­ing is but half the work.)

I will give you more

Young female professional in blue denim shirt and black-rimmed glasses sits at a table reading on a tablet.

If you want more tips on how to create good structure at work, there are many ways to get that from me - in podcasts, videos, books, talks and other formats.

Yes, I want more tips!