You know it’s summer when that feeling that you suck at work/life balance intensifies. While non-moguls are relatively free to browse BBQ recipes, swimsuits and beach bod fitness moves, the rest of us have to:
A) leave early enough to get to the BBQ, and
B) ignore that inner monologue panicking over the To-Do list. (And yeah, we’re also scanning for recipes that require less effort than going to the liquor store. Those exist, right?)
The days are getting longer, and if you’re not getting some daylight to play and relax, your workspace needs a reset. It doesn’t take a lot of money, but it will take a little time to complete the steps below. But believe it, the payoff is amazing: actually being able to leave work at work.
“Capture” all your to-dos in one master-list
Your desk reset begins with the often nebulous To Do list. To get it under control use David Allen’s strategy from Getting Things Done. Assign a notebook or Word Doc as the repository for EVERYTHING that triggers an ‘I should do that’ response. This master list holds everything from “get a birthday card for Kurt,” to “schedule a haircut,” to “find satellite office in Missoula.”
As your master list grows, you’ll notice a couple of things. First, many tasks can be grouped together based on type (email, errand, phone call, etc.), and in many cases get batched and knocked out at once. Second, you’ll see tasks that can be deferred to a later date, or delegated to someone else. And finally, you’ll see projects that require next steps; those are the ones that get prioritized and added to your To-Do list. When you have everything that tugs on your psyche captured in one place, you will feel immensely relieved.
Clear everything off your desk
Starting with a cleaned out, empty desk and then putting back only the essentials will lead to a more streamlined workspace. Once you see the area available to you, you won’t want to give it up. Move everything from your desk onto the floor nearby or into a couple of boxes. Use an all-purpose cleaner to get all the dust and grime off of the desktop, drawer pulls, window sill, etc.
Expand your office space with on-demand storage
Generally speaking, office space is expensive, storage is not. If you gathered all the items in your office that get used once a year, you might find enough room in your office for a temp to plug away at your busywork tasks. An on-demand storage service like Clutter can pack up all those totes labeled “Trade Show Misc.”, barcode and store them, and then deliver only what you need just in time for next year’s convention.
Use a left to right flow
Picture your desk as a station on an assembly line: incoming projects enter from the left, you contribute to said projects, and then they exit your station to the right. It’s a trick that line cooks at high-volume restaurants use to maximize productivity in small spaces.
If you handle a lot of hard copy documents nothing beats two shallow baskets on either side of your computer. Or maybe you make stuff for a living; you could lay out the products in progress to the left and have shelves for finished product on the right. The specific set-up will depend on the nature of your job, but the result is the same: a more fluid workday rhythm.
Your desk is for doing work, not holding work
Anything you’re not actively engaged with should be kept off your desk until you can give it your full attention. Depending on your office, you could get a small file cabinet to put under your desk. Or set up a bookshelf, basket or bin system directly behind your desk. However, you do it, keep the space in front of you open and ready for use.
Limit your motivational tchotchkes to things that inspire you when you look at them. If that “be mindful” greeting card doesn’t resonate with you anymore, toss it and find something better. Relocate stress relief gadgets like Zen gardens or essential oil diffusers so they don’t contribute to the chaos and overwhelm. Swap out heavy frames to plastic or bamboo frames that can be tacked onto a bulletin board or on the wall behind your monitor. Use the vertical space available to you for décor, so the surface of your desk is open for work.
Whether you’re a freelancer with a desk in your bedroom, an accountant, doctor, teacher, etc. the desk reset is a must. Try the tips above, and let me know how it goes. And feel free to send your organization and productivity tips my way: [email protected]