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Last Updated on May 21, 2020

5 Spring Cleaning Tips That Will Hugely Boost Your Productivity

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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Last Updated on June 3, 2020

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

Builds Workers’ Skills

Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

Boosts Employee Loyalty

Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

Strengthens Team Bonds

Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

Promotes Mentorship

There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

1. Listen First

Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

You could say:

  • “Help me understand your thought process.”
  • “What led you to take that step?”
  • “What’s your perspective?”

2. Lead With a Compliment

In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

You could say:

  • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
  • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

3. Address the Wider Team

Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

You could say:

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  • “Let’s think through this together.”
  • “I want everyone to see . . .”

4. Ask How You Can Help

When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

You could say:

  • “What can I do to support you?”
  • “How can I make your life easier?
  • “Is there something I could do better?”

5. Give Examples

To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

You could say:

  • “I wanted to show you . . .”
  • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
  • “This is a perfect example.”
  • “My ideal is . . .”

6. Be Empathetic

Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

You could say:

  • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
  • “I understand.”
  • “I’m sorry.”

7. Smile

Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

8. Be Grateful

When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

You could say:

  • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
  • “We all learned an important lesson.”
  • “I love improving as a team.”

9. Avoid Accusations

Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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You could say:

  • “We all make mistakes.”
  • “I know you did your best.”
  • “I don’t hold it against you.”

10. Take Responsibility

More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

You could say:

  • “I should have . . .”
  • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

11. Time it Right

Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

12. Use Their Name

When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

You could say:

  • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
  • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

13. Suggest, Don’t Order

When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

You could say:

  • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
  • “Try it this way.”
  • “Are you on board with that?”

14. Be Brief

Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

15. Follow Up

Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

You could say:

  • “I wanted to recap . . .”
  • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
  • “Did that make sense?”

16. Expect Improvement

Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

You could say:

  • “I’d like to see you . . .”
  • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
  • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
  • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

17. Give Second Chances

Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

You could say:

  • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
  • “I’d love to see you try again.”
  • “Let’s give it another go.”

Final Thoughts

Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

More on Constructive Feedback

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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