During the first part of my career I experienced paralysis in the workplace on a number of occasions. That is, the type of pararlysis where I could no longer work effectively, or make a decision (whether it was an immediate decision required or one that required some strategic thought).
As it turns out, the source of the paralysis on each occassion was workplace clutter.
Now what exactly is workplace clutter. To put it simply, it is a behaviour that can consist of:
- Documents, papers, files and other items piled up within your office, on your desk and on your floor;
- A list of emails a mile long, demanding your attention;
- Treating your workspace as a personal dumping ground – consisting of things you are going to get to one day;
- Others treating your workspace as a dumping ground; and
- Where you spread out across your workspace, then into someone else’s workspace, another office, the meeting room, the conference room, and so on.
Three Things You Can Do Immediately To Tackle Clutter!
Reduce the piles
Start using your organisation’s filing system. Trust in the system. File the documents in your office. Put your file notes on file – whether it’s electronically, or in hard copy form.
Give things back to whoever owns them. Put the books and magazines back in the corporate library. Get rid of the rubbish. You may even uncover that photo of your family.
Keep your desk clear at all times. If you have a standing desk, you will have to do this anyway. With a clear desk – work on one issue at a time. Your stress levels will go down and your head won’t hurt as much. Every time you finish something – even if you are part way through, put it away and then pull out the next item you are scheduled to work on.
Action the emails
Stop putting your emails in sub folders to action at a later time and date. If you check your emails two or three times a day, this is sufficient time to deal with them. Like so many have said before, don’t tackle an email first thing – it will blow your timelines straight away. If you need to record an email electronically – then do it. If I can do it, believe me, you can!
Eliminate the in-trays
I used to have that many in-trays, I wasn’t sure anymore what was in each one, or what I would use each one for. So, I went cold turkey and got rid of the lot.
The immediate effect was liberating. Since that time, I have never used an intray – I don’t need one. Even as a former full time CEO, not one intray could be seen in my office. What did this mean? Well, it meant I dealt with issues as they popped up. So when Staff would come in for something to be reviewed or signed. I would deal with it there and then. The obvious outcome became one of where work didn’t pile up and the staff were not held up either.
My final word
In one of my roles as a CEO, my senior office cleaner would say “I love cleaning your office Sean – it’s so easy to do – no clutter”. There was never a speck of dust to be seen. And, I found I could give my full attention to deal with one issue at a time.
See you on the other side…