Now that the Monday blues are behind us, the week is revving up and your workload probably is too. The emails are flying in at rapid speeds, files are piling up on your computer, and your office space (and likely living spaces) are building up more and more clutter as the busy work-week continues. If you’re an organization queen with systems already in place for your office and home, than you’ve got this handled. But for the rest of us who sit with thousands of leftover emails in our inbox, and screens and surfaces full of clutter that are impossible to search through, then here’s a 5-day plan that will help you get re-organized and reduce all that unnecessary stress. Grab some coffee and get started with these steps today or tomorrow, and you’ll be in a much better place to beat those Monday blues next week!
Day 1 – Organize Emails
For day one, let’s tackle our inbox. I know that may sound daunting, but it only takes an hour to get a process down and start the clean-up.
Start by creating folders for your emails. For example, create one for receipts, past communications with clients (that you still may need to reference), pending items to follow-up on, etc. Once you have those created, organize all your existing emails into these folders until your inbox is down to zero. (Have a ton to go through? Try organizing a few weeks/months worth each day – depending on how many you have – until they’re all either deleted or filed away into folders.)
Finally, follow this system for anything incoming:
- Don’t need it? Delete it. (And unsubscribe if it’s a reoccurring email that you don’t ever read.)
- Saving for reference? File it in one of the folders you just created, so you can reference it later.
- Needs a reply? Handle the email either when you get them, or designate a few time slots throughout the day dedicated to answering emails (for example, once in the morning, and a second in the afternoon).
Make it a goal to keep your inbox at zero at the end of each day, using it only as a little ‘parking lot’ for all your incoming, unread items.
Day 2 – Clean Your ‘Digital Desks’
Next, we’re going to clean up our ‘digital desks’, and by that I mean our desktops/laptops and smart phones. A cluttered screen filled with random, unorganized files is stressful enough just to look at, and even worse when it comes to actually finding files.
Start with your phone and delete any app that you haven’t touched in the last 3 months. Then, move all the ones you use daily onto your main screen for easy access. On your personal and work computers, organize all your desktop files into folders – the fewer, the better. Try to narrow down your icons (folder and shortcuts) so they take up no more than one row on your screen. From that point on, avoid saving any future files to your desktop, and instead start the habit of ‘filing’ them away whenever you save them.
Day 3 – Time to Go Shopping…
Now it’s time to take a little break (before we get to the more difficult stuff tomorrow). Stop by your local home improvements store and grab a few plants to fill your space. Not only are the stress relievers just to look at, they also purify the air with fresh oxygen, which can help elevate your energy and improve brain function.
Next, buy a cheap alarm clock. Stick it in your bedroom, and leave the phone out of site and in another room. I know it’s tough, but a phone can be a huge distraction at night, causing you to stay up longer and loose out on those valuable Zzz’s. The absence of constant social updates and emails first thing in the morning will also help calm your mind and body, so try to keep your phone put away until you get to the office if you can. Wake up to the sunlight shining through your window instead of a phone screen, get dressed while thinking positive thoughts or affirmations, and eat breakfast while looking over your planner or bullet journal for the day. Believe me, when you get to the office, you’ll be in a much more relaxed and focused state to tackle your to-do list.
Day 4 & 5 – Clear Out Clutter
If you’ve got a mountain of clutter to deal with – whether it be clothes, makeup, leftover food in the fridge, stuff in general, or all of the above – set aside a weekend to clear out everything. Empty out all your drawers and clear off all surfaces. Then sort the items based on what you use and the frequency at which you use them, and what you don’t use. I tend to sort my stuff into five categories:
- ‘The Dailies‘ – This includes anything I use daily, like my camera, laptop, everyday beauty products, the coffee machine, etc. These I’ll let take up that valuable but limited space on furniture surfaces (dresser top, desk, nightstand, kitchen top, etc) for easy access.
- ‘The Weeklies & Monthlies‘ – This covers things I don’t use everyday, but still need easy access to. For me, that’s my photography equipment (tripods and props), makeup and clothing for special events/evenings out, specialty kitchen appliances, paper files for taxes and accounting, etc. These get stored in cabinets, storage boxes, and easy-to-access closet spaces.
- ‘The Seasonals‘ – For example, if it’s winter, then this would be things like camping equipment and summer clothes. I’ll put these in sturdy cardboard moving boxes, label them, and then stack them up in the back of closets, basement, or attic, until it’s time to bring them back out again. (This is an ongoing process, but considering it saves loads of space from your closets and dressers, it’s worth the 2-4 hours spent 2x a year).
- Donate/Sell – Things I never use, but are still in good condition.
- Trash – Things I never use, but are in too of a poor condition to donate or sell.
Once your space is tidy, get in the habit of putting everything in its designated place at the end of each day. That way, each day you’ll be greeted with a clear, clutter-free spaces, which makes for a clear, relaxed, stress-free mind.
One In, One Out
The next step is to limit the clutter coming in. This can be difficult when shopping hauls are a regular thing, but there’s one trick that can help – it’s called the “one in, one out” principle, meaning you make room for new items by removing the old. That way, you can keep your belongings at a steady level, and your spaces consistently organized and minimal. Plus you never have to do an extreme de-cluttering session again (yay!).
So the next time you receive a gift from someone, ask yourself, What can I spare to open up space for this? Could somebody else get better use out of this item than me? When you’re out shopping and find something you want to pick up, take a few moments to decide if you absolutely need it. If the answer is yes (or if you’re still debating), think ahead on what you might toss or donate to make room for your new purchase when you get home.
Of course you don’t have to apply this rule to everything. Instead, aim for the things you tend to over-purchase, to the point where you already have more than you’ll ever use. For me, that’s makeup, beauty products, and clothes…go figure…. 🙂
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