This week, clients have told me that they’re hoping for a reset.
One way to reset is to have a clear-out and a declutter, and free up your external spaces to help you be ready for what’s up ahead. It’s an easy way to reclaim mental bandwidth and find greater clarity.
The workspace you most commonly occupy is probably a desk + your digital “homebase” (your email, to do lists, your calendar etc). How do you feel when your desk is cluttered and your inbox is 12 pages long? For me, it’s like my workspace is shouting, and it leaks into how I feel about all my work.
I need a minimum of 1 square metre of clear-ish physical space plus a very low-friction digital homebase to be able to concentrate on what’s important. (Low friction meaning, easy to open and get started). How about you?
I thought I’d share some ideas of what can be done quickly and easily to declutter your work space. Here’s what I do at the start of every year. 🌄
✅ Inbox: I move all the emails that are still sitting in my inbox into a folder called 2020. Yes, ALL of them. I now have inbox zero, ta-da! Did you know, Gmail has a message that says “You’ve finished! Nothing in Inbox”. It’s so pleasing to have all that white space.
✅ Tasks: I’ve tried every productivity system and to-do app in existence, and I find keeping a simple list in a doc is still the easiest and most effective way to prioritise my work. On the first day back every new year, I just start a new one. Radical.
✅ Calendar: I’m not brave enough to delete everything in my calendar and see what bounces back in. But, I do remove all those recurring notes and reminders that stray in over time, and I look again at all the repeating meetings and cancel anything that feels draggy.
✅ Browser: I set fresh start-up pages (the pages that automatically load when you open your browser) so they’re the docs that feature most heavily in my workflow: calendar, inbox, task list, client messages, finance dashboard. I also delete a load of bookmarks from my shortcut bar.
The great thing about technology is, if I realise later that something does need to be pulled forward from last year, then I can go back and copy it. It’s no biggie.
I first did a reset like this about 5 years ago and it was a big learning moment. Nothing went wrong even though I virtually deleted everything. If it’s important, you’ll just remember it anyway, or it will come up again in your inbox. Survival of the fittest.
Maybe you’re thinking, that wouldn’t work for me, I need to keep it all as a reminder. In year 1, I felt the same, so I diarised a read-through of the old stuff on 1st Feb. It was a nice safety net, but I didn’t feel the need to go through with it, come Jan 31st. 😎
The best bit is that having such a fast, low-friction declutter of your digital homebase means you have more time and energy to tackle your physical space and create a fresh start there too.
My desk at home was set up in a rush during a pandemic lockdown and because of this, I had stacks of unprocessed paper and stuff everywhere. I decided to handle the abundance (ahem) and in the process I discovered I owned:
- Three hole punches
- Several tubs of expired multivitamins
- Dozens (and dozens) of blank notebooks
- Multiple pairs of tweezers (!)
- …I could go on but you get the picture 🙈
Here’s what you can do to zip through the desk clutter:
- Choose the 1m² that you are reclaiming
- Put all the papers in a tray or box, ready to process later
- Pick up each object in turn, and ask the first of two magic questions:
If I already had one of these, where would I keep it?
- Take the object there, and put it down. After a while, you’ll start building up a little pile of staplers…. When the 4th stapler turns up, you ask:
How much space do I want to dedicate to staplers?
- If you have more staplers than your dedicated stapler space, then you can “release the staplers with gratitude into the universe” (aka stick them in that massive bag by the front door that’s waiting to go to the charity shop).
- Then it’s time to tackle that box of papers. The quickest thing to do is: put them in a box, mark the box 2020 Papers, put it in the corner, and see what happens….. just like your inbox!*
(*Actually, I do process paper more thoroughly than this – I tell you about that in my next post.)
Following this process and using the 2 magic questions was a painless way to clear, and sorting my first 1m² wasn’t actually the big thing I’d been dreading.
Seeing all that clear space in your workspace is like taking a big deep breath. Sometimes you’ll remember this satisfying feeling in the middle of the year and know you have a delicious clear out ahead. Just knowing that can bring instant perspective.
If your brain feels foggy and you’re yearning for more clarity, would it help to do a reset on your workspace and digital homebase, too?
See you soon,