Years ago I read in a woodworking magazine article that suggested every time you walk into your workshop you should put away 10 items. This is a great habit to get into because you can quickly put away 10 items and what generally happens is, now that you have started the process of cleaning up and see how easy it was to do, you see 10 to 20 more items that can quickly be put away. The result is five minutes later your workbench is considerably cleaner and your tools much easier to find. This is similar to the two minute rule discussed in yesterday’s blog.
Decluttering is an excellent thing you can do in the 5 to 10 minutes you waste scrolling through your phone most hours. In his book Digital Minimalism Cal Newport recommends what he calls a digital declutter. It involves deleting all of the apps on your phone that have collected over the years, like trash in your junk drawer, and starting from scratch. The best time to do this is after a 30 day detox from technology. Starting from scratch enables you to reevaluate what apps and technology you truly need in your life. Spoiler alert, it’s not much.
Decluttering your desk at work is very important too. Thanks to our prehistoric ancestors need to survive, without you realizing it, your mind processes everything that you see and evaluates if it is a threat or not. The more items you have laying out on your desk the more the mind has to process. This background processing wastes time, reduces your creativity, and makes you tired. It’s far easier to find that report or stapler you need if it is one of only a few things on your desk and consistently lives in the same place.
The same goes for your virtual desktop on your computer screen or phone. Having hundreds of icons on the screen makes it very difficult to find the one you’re looking for. For tips to make your phone icons much easier to locate check out this previous blog.
On your computer desktop at work, try to keep the number of icons on the screen to a minimum. To reduce the number of shortcuts on my desktop I set a shortcut key for all of the programs I use frequently. Examples include control+alt C for the calculator, control+alt X for Excel, control+alt E for Outlook, I think you get the point. You now don’t need to have an icon on your desktop for each of these programs. It’s also easy to use the start menu to find them if I decide not to use the shortcut key.
You can manage the start menu and pin the programs that you frequently use to the top of the start menu or lock them to the taskbar. The advantage of pinning them to the start menu is that it creates and holds a history of your most recent files that you opened. If you’re constantly opening the same files you can pin them to the recent files list so they will always be there. I have used this method for so many years that I have forgotten where on the network some of the files I use regularly are even saved.
Email is another place where having a defined process in place will save you a lot of time. The people around your office that keep a clean and organized desk most likely also maintain clean and organized email inboxes. One of my favorite interview questions for people whose job requires them to be organized and detail oriented is, “Tell me about your email inbox.” Most of them light up immediately with pride as they get the opportunity to tell you about the system they use. People who can follow a system to mange their email are certainly organized and detail oriented. I’m pretty sure if I ever got the response, “I am not sure what you mean.” The interview would be over right there.
If you’ve enjoyed this week’s series of productive and rewarding things you can do in the five to ten minutes you would have wasted on your phone, please share the link on Facebook so your friends can also benefit from the ideas.