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5 Spring Cleaning Tips That Will Hugely Boost Your Productivity

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5 Spring Cleaning Tips That Will Hugely Boost Your Productivity

Spring has traditionally been the time of year when we clean out the old and prepare our spaces for the coming warmer and brighter weather, when we look for those spring cleaning tips to help us get both our bodies and minds moving in accordance with the freshness of the season.

Spring cleaning dates back many centuries to a time when the spring clean was done to clean out the soot left by oil lamps and fires used to light and warm homes in the winter. Many religions and cultures have used the spring and approaching Easter to clean alters and begin the new religious year.

These days, of course, we don’t rely on oil lamps and fires in every room to keep our homes warm, but we can still use this old tradition to clean up our stuff and prepare ourselves for what awaits in the rest of the year[1].

Apart from physical items, over the previous year (or years!) you will have collected a lot of files, documents, notes, and other such things that are just gathering digital dust somewhere on your hard drives or cloud storage systems, and spring is a great time to clean these up, archive the old, and delete a lot more.

A spring clean has many more benefits than just leaving you with a clean environment in which to live and work. It can also provide you with a massive boost to your productivity. Here are five spring cleaning tips to help you become a lot more productive.

1. Focus on Building Energy and Reducing Stress

There’s something special about working in a clean, distraction-free environment. Arriving at your work station and seeing a fresh table with no leftover files, coffee mugs, or papers and a computer with nothing on the desktop except your wallpaper immediately puts you into work mode. Seeing such cleanliness can give you a motivational boost and prepare your mind for a day of quality, distraction-free work.

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Spring allows us to take a look at our work station and remove the clutter. Clear out old pens and pencils that either do not work or have become so small there’s hardly a grip left to hold. Throw away dead plants and ornaments that no longer have any meaning to you.

Go into your desk drawers and empty everything out. Get yourself a large refuse bag and throw away all those old, half-used notebooks, PostIt notes, refills, paper clips, batteries, and cables you no longer use (or have devices for). Once all your drawers are empty, wipe them out with a damp cloth and only put back the items you know you will need. Allow yourself only one notebook and one stack of PostIt notes.

Finally, once everything is cleaned out, wipe down all your surfaces with a damp cloth: your desk surface, the front and back of your computer, keyboard and other peripherals. Then sit back and admire your work.

When doing all of this, focus on keeping the things that improve your focus and give you positive energy. Throw out or get rid of anything that causes clutter and the resulting stress. This simple rule will help you know what needs to stay and go.

Also, try not to do your spring cleaning when you’re already a bit stressed. Go into the cleaning with a positive outlook, excited for how the space will look after.

2. Attack Your Emails Ruthlessly

We collect a lot of emails over the years, and we leave them in our archive folders or individual folders we added to manage a project or a heavy email exchange with a colleague or business partner. The trouble is we rarely clean these out and delete them, so they build up over time.

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If you find you haven’t looked at a particular email or had a use for it in the last year, it probably isn’t worth keeping. If you find a certain email has an important password or a recipe you really don’t want to delete, find another place to store it.

Cleaning up your email not only makes you feel better; it also speeds up your whole system, which ultimately improves your overall productivity. Be courageous and delete, delete, and delete some more.

If you want to save an email because it has some sentimental value to you, you can export it as a PDF and keep it in a folder on your hard drive or cloud drive called “keepsakes” or “memories.” That way, it’s outside your email, but you still have a copy of it.

A quick tip for these keepsake or memory folders: review them each year when you do your spring cleaning. After another year has passed, you may be surprised by how unimportant some of these emails, photos, and documents have become.

Once you have cleaned up and deleted your old emails, take a little time to review your folder (or categories) structure. Ask yourself if the way you manage your email is the most effective way to do so. With the powerful search abilities of most email applications today, you no longer need complex folder structures.

This mindset you develop for emails can also be applied to your home office. Go through your old papers. Why are you keeping them? Are they really important? If they are genuinely important for whatever reason, consider scanning them into a hard drive. You’ll be amazed by how much physical space this creates in your home.

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3. Learn to Let Go

The hardest part of decluttering and cleaning up is letting go. We have this false belief that we will need a file or a document sometime in the future, yet we rarely do. If you clean up and move stuff off to an external hard drive, you have not lost anything. It’s still there. It’s now on an external hard drive and no longer taking up space on your computer or in your cloud storage. Just let it go. Once you’ve bought the external hard drive, it does not cost you anything to keep it.

This can be a bit more difficult with physical items. Many people have a particular space, such as a basement, attic, or closet, where they put all those things they might want to have access to in the future. In the end, that closet door rarely gets opened. How much would you really miss those items if you opened it one day to find it was all gone? Try to look at your objects with an objective eye and decide if they’re really worth your time and space.

If this is very difficult for you, start with one meaningful item each day. This should be something that you may have some attachment to but that isn’t serving you in any way. Once you’ve let go of several items, you’ll find it hurts less each time.

4. Find What Works For You

There are multiple ways to organize your stuff; the trick is to find a way that works for the way your mind organizes the world. When it comes to files, for some, organizing by year works. For others, organizing by client or project works best. During your spring cleaning process, think carefully about how you would naturally search for something and then develop a structure that fits.

Some people are naturally more strict about the organization of their environment. If this is you, don’t fight it. Buy some baskets or shelves or tubs that will help you put everything exactly where it needs to be. Put labels or use a Sharpie to be able to quickly identify things.

Other people are more open-minded about where things go. You may not need formal organization, so just find a nice place for that chair your great grandma gave you or that little trinket your sister brought you back from Europe. If it feels right and helps you create a positive environment, run with it.

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Ultimately, it’s about being able to find stuff when you need to find it. If you copy someone else’s structure, there will be a good chance it will fail because you will think very differently from the person you are copying. Find your own path.

5. Keep It Simple

Always do your best to keep things as simple as possible. When you file today, you need to be filing for your forgetful self tomorrow. It might be fantastic to come up with an elaborate organization system, but in three or five years, you will probably be unable to remember how you were organizing things before.

Don’t worry about extensive computer folders with 20 sub-folders or buying that fancy cabinet that can store 100 different types of yarn. You can organize things with exactly what you have at this moment just by being creative and open to the circumstances.

Final Thoughts

Having a clean, well-organized working environment makes finding stuff easy; it helps to give your clarity and makes your whole work experience much more enjoyable. When you are in that state, you will find your overall productivity increases, and you become a lot less stressed and overwhelmed. It’s spring, so let’s get started!

More Tips on Spring Cleaning

Featured photo credit: Volha Flaxeco via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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