Tina Hearnden gives her tips on how to de-clutter your life.
Is your desk swamped with papers, children’s homework and post-it notes? Does it take half an hour to sort out your desk before you can start working? Do you regularly waste valuable time hunting for your keys or the phone? Do you often feel busy – but haven’t got much to show for it?
Organising your time and workspace will boost your productivity and shave precious hours off your workday, says Tina Hearnden from Tina’s Organisation, who specialises in home/office de-cluttering and organising, help with admin, researching holiday venues and many other time-sucking tasks.
Tina shares some of her top tips:
On you marks, get set, de-clutter: Before you do anything else, de-clutter – start with the physical. Only keep things you use (all the time), need (use from time to time) or love (we all need a few of our special things around us!) Something that might possibly come in handy one day – is not worth keeping – bin in!
Tip: Only after you have de-cluttered should you think about buying pretty storage boxes and swanky new folders!
No digital dumping: You can waste a lot of time searching for a file or email saved under an obscure name or in a forgotten folder. Remember your desktop is not a filing system! Delete apps you’ve never used and weed through old emails and set up folders both in your email and on your computer (just like you would in a filing cabinet) to ensure you set the foundations for brand new habits.
Tip: Sort emails by who they’re from to speed up the deleting process. Develop a habit to either delete, action or file emails on the spot!
Set realistic goals: Avoid pulling everything apart and then having to abandon it half way through, this will only make things worse.
Tip: If time is limited, divide the sorting process and schedule the separate tasks in your diary. Sorting by category can work well, such as all papers or all books. Use the space gained to tidy away leftovers from a desk and floor de-clutter.
A place for everything: You’ve heard this before: A place for everything – and everything in its place. This is the secret to never having to search for anything again. Label everything that you can’t immediately identify at a glance.
Tip: Strip your office space back to the bare minimum - desk, chair, computer and phone and then start adding items as you need them. Only keep the things you use regularly or files you’re working on that day within easy reach. Everything else should be tidied away at the end of each day.
Stay on top of paperwork: Whether you use a wall-mounted magazine rack or desktop sorting trays – create an easy and quick paper routine to stick to every day. Set aside 15 minutes to recycle, file, action now or put in your ‘for action’ tray and add to your to do list.
Tip: Create a special ‘in tray’ for school letters and birthday party invites and teach the kids to put their documents here for you to action.
To do lists: Don’t overload your to do list with massive tasks that will take weeks to sort out. It can be demotivating to see the same thing on your list week after week and you will never be able to complete it in one go.
Tip: Break bigger tasks down into manageable chunks of roughly 15/20 minutes each, e.g. ‘Create new website’ becomes many tasks such as: research and contact website designers, create website outline, make an appointment with designer etc
Chunk your time: Map out your routines and restrictions for every day and create blocks of time for your work. Plan in time at the end of the day to clear away and prep for the next morning. As your diary fills up – preserve the chunks of time. This will give you space to concentrate on your work without distraction and boost your productivity.
Tip: Keep a folder with reading ‘work’ in the car and use dead time such as waiting for children at a club to catch up on your reading tasks.
And finally, be kind to yourself. It takes months to build up new habits. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Make one or two small changes or one large step at a time and give yourself at least a month and ideally two to really imbed a new habit and only move on when you feel that it has started to become second nature. Also, we all have bad days. Take a moment to reflect – was any of it within your control? What would you do differently next time? Don’t let one ‘blip’ trip you up – learn from it and move on.
Good luck – let me know how you get on and which new habits worked for you.
*Tina Hearnden is the founder of Tina’s Organisation – who’ll help you make your time your own again. Tina does de-cluttering and organising in a 10 mile radius from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, but will take on virtual research tasks anywhere – even abroad. Call: 07402 885 551. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org