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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

Reference

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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 July 29, 2020

19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

19 Best Mac Apps for Productivity You Need in 2020

Whether you use your Mac for work or just for your personal projects, you’ve likely found yourself wondering how to improve your productivity. There are only so many hours in a day, and so much mental stamina you can muster before you run out.

There are dozens of tricks you can use to improve your own productivity and outlook, but if you’re looking for a more objective, comprehensive fix, the best thing to do is equip your Mac with productivity apps designed to help you do more in less time.

This Lifehack-exclusive list has some of the best productivity apps to help you feel less tired, improve your energy, and ultimately help you get more done every day:

1. Todoist

    Available for all iOS devices, Todoist is a note-taking and organization app that can keep you on top of all your projects—both personal and professional.

    Its best features are all free to use, including browser extensions, task creation, and interactive boards you can use to organize all your notes.

    If you want to pay the optional $29 yearly fee, you can get even more advanced features like backups and automatic reminders. Even with the free version, you’ll stay far more organized.

    Download: Todoist

    2. 1Password

      You may not realize it, but you probably spend a ton of time recalling your passwords, especially if and when you forget one to an app you use on a regular basis.

      1Password is an app for Mac that saves and remembers all your passwords for you in one place, so you can access all your favorite sites with a single click.

      You’ll save time and keep all your accounts secure simultaneously. A personal plan is $2.99 per month.

      Download: 1Password

      3. Bear

        Bear is a unique kind of note-taking app designed to make it easier for Mac users to jot down notes on the go. With it, you can create to-do lists, give yourself reminders, and outline concepts for future brainstorming sessions.

        It comes with many different inline styles so you can customize your notes to your personal preferences, and remember the context in which you wrote them. The core version is free, with a $14.99 per year version available as well.

        Download: Bear

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        4. Hazel

          Hazel by noodlesoft is an automated organization tool designed for Mac that will help you automatically organize your files based on any custom rules you want to create.

          For example, you can set it to move untouched items from one folder into another folder labeled “action items” if they haven’t been addressed within a week. It can save you hours of organization over the course of a few weeks. A single license is a flat $32.

          Download: noodlesoft

          5. Alfred

            Alfred is an all-in-one app designed to save you time with Mac shortcuts and convenient custom actions. You can use it in a variety of ways.

            For example, you can access Alfred’s clipboard memory so you don’t copy and paste the same material over and over, or set up custom workflows to automate some of your most repetitive tasks.

            It’s a paid app, with multiple price points based on the features you desire.

            Download: Alfred

            6. TextExpander

              TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests; it allows you to type a short snippet of text, and expand that text automatically.

              For example, you can create a custom expansion that allows you to conjure a full paragraph you type repeatedly by simply typing a unique abbreviation. Once you get used to your custom combinations, you’ll spare your fingers from typing thousands of words.

              An individual account is $3.33 per month.

              Download: TextExpander

              7. Backblaze

                If you’ve ever experienced a crash, or theft of your Mac, you know how much time a system restore can cost you. You’ll spend hours replacing the files you lost, and lose thousands of files that are irreplaceable.

                Backblaze is an automated, inexpensive way to back up your entire Mac for just $5 a month.

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                Download: Backblaze

                8. Keyboard Maestro

                  Keyboard Maestro is an older app that still has the power to make your life easier. With it, you can automate any number of tasks based on a certain trigger (such as a hotkey combination, or an event like connecting to a wireless network). A single license only costs $36.

                  Download: Keyboard Maestro

                  9. Snagit

                    There are many applications for a good screen-capture app, whether you’re trying to illustrate a tech problem you have or just want to make an interesting meme. Snagit makes it easy, with built-in editing for both still images and video. A single license covers two machines, and costs $49.95.

                    Download: TechSmith/Snagit

                    10. Bartender

                      Bartender is the cleverly-named app that helps you clean up and organize all your menu bar icons. You can also access them quickly with keyboard shortcuts.

                      If you’re like most Mac users, those icons get cluttered quickly and stop you from working efficiently. It’s free to try for 4 weeks, after which you’ll need a $15 license.

                      Download: Bartender

                      11. Otter

                      Otter is the Mac app for the note taker who hates typing. It’s an intelligent voice-recognition system and note-taking app that will help you transcribe your conversations, keep notes during meetings, and even take contextual notes to yourself in your own time.

                      Best of all, it’s free to get started!

                      Download: Otter

                      12. Flux

                        Do you often find yourself feeling tired throughout the day, or feeling unable to get to sleep after a day of staring at your computer? That could be because of the unnatural blue light that radiates from your Mac.

                        Flux naturally adapts your display to emit light that matches the time of day, so you can sleep better and feel less tired. It’s also free!

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                        Download: Flux

                        13. PDFpen

                        If you deal with PDFs on a regular basis, you probably find yourself wishing for some kind of tool that can let you mark up those PDFs however you want. Without a dedicated app like PDFpen, this can be difficult.

                        PDFpen lets you edit PDFs in almost any conceivable way, giving you more power and saving you time. A single license is $74.95.

                        Download: Smile Software/PDFpen

                        14. OmniFocus

                          OmniFocus is all about task management. It has a clean interface that allows you to tag your tasks, schedule events, and even automate certain features.

                          It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market, so there’s a bit of a learning curve to get the most out of it.

                          A standard license is $39.99, while the pro version is $79.99.

                          Download: OmniFocus

                          15. Franz

                            It’s tiring to switch between dozens of different chat programs like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and WhatsApp, whenever you want to have a conversation with a different contact.

                            Franz’s solution is simple; offer access to all these apps in one convenient package. And best of all, it’s completely open source.

                            Download: Franz

                            16. MindNode

                              If you’re the brainstorming type, you need an app like MindNode to help you efficiently organize your thoughts. There are dozens of tools you can use to connect ideas in a mind map, or simply jot down notes for future reference.

                              The core app is free, with in-app purchases available.

                              Download: MindNode

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                              17. Focus

                                The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be awfully distracting. And if you’re like the majority of us, you’ve interrupted work on a project because of some attention-grabbing site or bad online habit. That’s where Focus comes in.

                                This app allows you to block the worst offenders with custom time limits and other constraints, so you can focus on the task at hand. A single license is $19.99.

                                Download: Focus

                                18. CleanMyMac

                                  Chances are, your Mac isn’t working as fast as it could, thanks to gigabytes of clutter and unnecessary files on your system. CleanMyMac helps you scan your Mac, monitor its health, and ultimately clean it up—so you can handle all your tasks that extra bit faster. A single license is $39.95.

                                  Download: CleanMyMac

                                  19. Grammarly

                                    A spelling error or grammatical mistake can cost you big time. It could be the source of a worse grade on a big paper, or compromise your credibility in the workplace. Thankfully, Grammarly can help you.

                                    This Mac-integrated writing assistant monitors all your writing and makes live corrections, so you’re alerted to your potential mistakes before they become permanent.

                                    A free version exists, but the premium version will cost you between $11 and $30 a month, depending on how you pay.

                                    Download: Grammarly

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    These productivity apps should help you squeeze more productive hours out of every day, but they aren’t the only tools you’ll have to help you find success.

                                    Make the time to learn about and experiment with all the life hacks that can make you more productive. By improving your devices as well as your outlook and focus, you’ll be able to get far more done in a day, and feel better doing it.

                                    More to Boost Productivity

                                    Featured photo credit: Patrick Ward via unsplash.com

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