Spring Cleaning for Business Life

BY Caitlin Roark // HR Director

Let’s level on 2020.  COVID took our personal and professional lives by storm, the country experienced a heightened level of political and social unrest, and then somehow, we made it through the post-holiday hangover.  It was a year that was unprecedented, it was challenging, it was Groundhog’s Day over and over and over again. 

We looked towards 2021 as a fresh start, a turn of the page, finally out of that prolonged chapter. 

And then we realized – we are still in it.  A date on the calendar does not magically change our attitude, behavior, or sentiment.  Sometimes we are in the middle of the dark tunnel or the light is too far to see. 

This is the time that we can lean on others for support and actively make small changes to adjust our perspective.  Spring (or Summer or Fall or Winter) cleaning can be that opportunity to reset and refresh.

1.     Office Space Organization

The small things can become the big things, and this is especially true with your work environment.  

If your desk space has become the de facto holding ground for miscellaneous papers around your house, your focus can be distracted.  Your mind will wander to personal tasks that need to be accomplished outside of business hours.  If you have to conduct a search for a pen between empty Diet Coke cans and cups and plates from yesterday’s lunch, that feeling of unease can further lead your mind to wander.  And then you spot that dying plant you swore that “it would be different, you could keep this low-maintenance succulent thriving with one more chance,” and lose confidence in your overall abilities. 

Clearing out all those small things in your office space will minimize distractions.  Removing temptations for multi-tasking will sharpen your focus and dedication to the task at hand vs. mentally adding to that ever-growing to-do list.  An added bonus? Other team members or clients won’t be distracted on video calls by elements they can see in your environment, and more meaningful productivity can be achieved.

This is (hopefully) an easy first step to gain momentum and free up mind space to tackle more impactful items.

2.     Digital Organization

We live in a digital world with many forms of technology.  These collaboration and communication tools are fantastic for their intended purpose.  They can also present a new level of complexity for deciding what tool to use when, who has access, and how the tools work together to meet goals.  Unorganized tools that do not ladder up to both your personal day-to-day and bigger picture long-term growth of your career can become an opportunity for unconscious stress.

It is safe to say email is a dominant force of communication in the business world.  The sheer volume of email has drastically increased as we have access to more training resources, set up automated alerts, and interact with a higher number of people.  Developing strategies for organizing your inbox and file structure are plentiful.  Personally, I am a fan of Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero philosophy and his update on prioritization with so many competing inboxes. 

Take it one step further and make it easy on yourself – don’t create two different folder filing systems between email and your permanent document storage location(s).  If you do save documents in multiple platforms, make a clear distinction for the business need.  Otherwise, one unified system is a great opportunity to streamline your technology.

3.     Time Management & Goal Setting 

Once you feel organized both in your physical environment and your digital filing system, you can focus on making the most impact with the time you have. 

Are you saying “yes” to too many meetings that leave you no time to accomplish your goals?  Do you frequently drop whatever you are doing when a new email hits your inbox or someone sends a chat message?  There are certainly times when this is unavoidable, but if this happens every day – you may feel like you are running aimlessly vs. completing a 5K and signing up for the next challenge.

There is a reason airlines tell you to secure your oxygen mask before helping others.  This is true in the business setting as well.  Goal setting keeps us grounded when we revisit frequently.  By tying your personal goals to the larger overarching mission, you will achieve a new sense of connectedness.  You will then be able to provide a better perspective to others who may be struggling.

Even if we cannot keep that desk plant alive, we can take the same concept of pruning to check-in with ourselves and make small choices that push us through the tough times.  Trimming away the non-productive parts will realign our focus to flourish in an ever-changing environment.