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How to Declutter Your Workspace

How to Declutter Your Workspace

    I’ve just had an opportunity to declutter my workspace, having spent half of the day swapping my home office and my son’s room around. The swap wasn’t an excuse to declutter (rather, to make better use of the utter lack of telephone outlets in our house) but I take every chance I get; we all know how clutter can creep up and before you know it you can’t turn around in your chair without knocking something over.

    I’m a musician and it has always been hard to keep my office space uncluttered; at a minimum I need a decent set of speakers, monitoring headphones, a keyboard, a mixer and digital audio input and an array of instruments in my working space to compose and create. That’s in addition to all the tools I need for the other half of my work life, which is writing. Each time I declutter I have to try and strike a balance between accessibility and lack of clutter, and each time I optimize enough to find a setup that works a little better.

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    I spend most days of the week in this room, usually way more than the recommended eight hours of work a day. So having a good workspace is important; ergonomic equipment is only one half of the equation – the physical half. The other half is mental, and for me, the best way to keep a positive attitude throughout the day is to have a clean, decluttered working area and a fair bit of natural light coming into the room.

    Here’s what I did. Bear in mind you don’t have to go to this extreme end of the spectrum, but I was clearing out the room anyway so there was no harm in doing it properly!

    1. Remove everything from the room

    If you’re decluttering the same way I have, this means removing everything, including the assorted junk hidden in your cupboard (built-in wardrobe if your home office was really meant to be a bedroom!). Yes, I know it’s in there. You can’t fool everyone.

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    Now that the room is empty, I suggest taking the opportunity to vacuum, clean the walls, and do anything else you need to do to get the room in its best condition. You don’t empty the whole room often and this may be your last chance for a few more months, or even years if you don’t move regularly. The cleaning stage is all a part of decluttering, really, and fortunately you’ve got unhindered access to every cranny of the room.

    2. View all items as equals

    The first thing you do when you examine the contents of a room for decluttering is discount your ability to declutter certain things. You look at the furniture of the room, for instance, and don’t even consider whether you need it in there or not; your mind automatically bypasses those things and looks at the assorted pile of junk.

    It is quite possible that the bookshelf or a part of your desk is actually clutter you don’t need. I have one of those corner desks similar to this (though way less ugly!). By viewing all my items as potential targets of the decluttering machine, I realized I could gain significant space in the room as well as provide less surface area for clutter creep by removing the rounded pane in the middle that connects the two main desk surfaces.

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    3. Choose necessities

    The next temptation is to fill the room with things you think you might need to have on hand, but in reality only use once a week or once a month. The key to a successful decluttering is to choose the absolute necessities for your workspace, and only bring those items back into the office. At this point the only things I have on my desk are my computer, keyboard, mouse, speakers and a notebook (as in the kind with paper inside) and pen.

    I’m trialling a system with my music equipment that will require me to bring them out of storage only when I need to use them. The main difficulty with this system in the past has been the time it costs to plug everything in and set it up, but I’ve found a solution that’ll only cost about a minute in set up time; I think I can live with that!

    4. Place items consciously

    Once you have made a conscious decision about what gets to come back in before you bring everything back in, you can go about finding a place for each item. Think carefully about where you’re going to put it in order to maximize the amount of room you have, in terms of both floor space and desk space. As I mentioned, removing one component of my desk allowed me to increase my floor space drastically which reduces the sense of clutter and claustrophobia. It has already made the office a much more productive and positive place to work.

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    Don’t just chuck everything you’re left with back in the way it came out. Decluttering is pointless unless you put some thought into every step and really optimize all aspects of your workspace. In short, decluttering isn’t just about throwing things away.

    5. Make a commitment to regular decluttering

    Many people would tell you that you should now make a general and obtuse commitment to keep your workspace decluttered, but we all know how clutter works. It creeps up slowly and you have to set aside a specific time at a regular interval to fight it off and keep it at bay. Whether you find five minutes at the end of each day or an hour once a week works best for you, don’t make the mistake of telling yourself you’ll just magically keep the workspace uncluttered with your newfound clean-freak attitude. You won’t. Just make a commitment to declutter again in the future at regular intervals.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

    What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

    If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

    So, what to do in free time?

    Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

    Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

    1. Reading Files

    Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

    Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

    2. Clear out Inbox

    Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

    If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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    3. Phone Calls

    Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

    Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

    4. Make Money

    This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

    If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

    5. File

    No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

    But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

    Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

    6. Network

    Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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    7. Clear out Feeds

    If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

    8. Goal Time

    Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

    If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

    Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

    9. Update Finances

    Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

    Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

    10. Brainstorm Ideas

    Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

    11. Clear off Desk

    Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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    Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

    12. Exercise

    Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

    13. Take a Walk

    This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

    It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

    14. Follow up

    Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

    When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

    15. Meditate

    You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

    Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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    16. Research

    This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

    If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

    17. Outline

    Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

    18. Get Prepped

    Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

    You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

    19. Be Early

    Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

    Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

    20. Log

    If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

    Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

    More Inspirations on What To Do During Free Time

    Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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