4 Ways to De-Clutter Your Brain and Your Office

Posted on September 6, 2012.

You’ve heard it all before- “make lists”, “delete emails”, “purge ”, but according to Psychology Today, it’s easier said than done. According to the article, people that have a visceral reaction to de-cluttering are not exaggerating. They experience real pain.  That said, trying to manage people is nearly impossible if you can’t get organized.  How can you make it easier?

1.     Break it down. Any time you’re faced with something that overwhelms you, it helps to break it into smaller pieces.  If you have paper on every corner of your desk and floor, don’t look at the room in total.  Tackle one small space at a time.  Allocate enough time to clean just one pile and stop for that day.  If you try to tackle more than that, you’ll quit before you start.

2.     Establish a matrix.  Before you embark on your de-cluttering, it helps to establish matrix that includes things like “action required”, “read within 30 days”, “nice to have, not need to have”, etc.  Once you have the matrix, label boxes and when sorting your small piles, make sure to discard them into the appropriate box.  Once your done, throw out the nice to haves, put the read in 30 days on your inbox and put your act now on the front of your desk.  If you can’t throw out the box yourself, ask someone to do it for you.

3.     Delete emails.  For hoarders, stockpiling emails is not unlike stockpiling papers in your office.  Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it isn’t clutter. Plus, every time you open up your mail, you are stressed and overwhelmed. Here’s the thing, you probably just physically can’t bring yourself to delete all those unnecessary emails.  So ask someone to do it for you.  Hopefully you have an assistant that has access to your mail.  If not, ask someone you trust to help you. Start by sorting the mail by date. Clearly, anything over 90 days is suspect; anything over 6 months should be gone.

4.     Store documents digitally. As you or your assistant goes through the email above, make sure you create digital document folders for those emails that contain critical information.  The document folders would be set up just like paper folders. Once they’re established, you can start filing emails accordingly.  No more papers in the office, no more email sin your inbox you’re saving because they contain information you must retain.

Once you’ve been able to de-clutter your office, you’ll find that you have a significant amount of time freed up that you can spend doing what every good manager should be doing- spending time with the people that work for you.