Cluttered desk, cluttered mind: how to declutter y...

Cluttered desk, cluttered mind: how to declutter your business

Our brains don’t like clutter. This is because clutter makes it harder to process things, making us slow and forgetful. Not all business clutter is physical – much of it is now in our computers and even in our company structure. Here’s how you can go about removing all the clutter from your business starting with what’s on your desk right the way down to the very way in which you run your business.  

Start with the obvious physical clutter

Start by getting rid of physical items in your office that you obviously don’t need such as unnecessary ornaments, broken machines, surplus mugs and piled up junk mail. If you have a huge store cupboard full of clutter, consider looking into local skip hire – hiring a skip will give you an incentive to throw out more stuff. There may be other items that you can sell for cash or recycle. Dealing with this physical clutter should be a first priority as this is likely to be having a constant effect on your mental state.

Go paperless

Next, consider whether you really need paper in your business. Paper can be a huge source of clutter – making all information digital could make your office feel physically less cluttered. You can share all information on the cloud allowing everyone to access it rather than having to print off copies of documents for everyone or pinning up rotas and calendars. Any current physical documents meanwhile can be scanned and turned into digital copies. Once all your documentation is digital, you could find that you can get rid of filing cabinets and printers as you may no longer have a need for them. You could even get rid of physical books and trade these in for e-books.

Create a filing system for digital files

Once your physical clutter is organised you can then move onto digital clutter. Most companies have filing systems but these can sometimes get neglected as people start to get lazy. Make sure that you have a strict filing system. Create folders within folders if you have to – try to reduce the need to ever scroll down so that you can more easily find information. Find a filing system that works for you – some people prefer to file items alphabetically, whilst others prefer to file things by date.

Organise your inbox

Email inboxes are one the biggest places for digital clutter. Without an email filing system in place, it’s easy to forget to respond to email or completely lose track of information that was emailed to you. The five folder system is one of the most effective sorting methods. The first folder should be your inbox, after which every email is immediately read and sorted into one of four folders: ‘FYI’ (for informational purposes only), ‘immediate action’ (emails that need to be acted on straight away), ‘action today’ (emails that need to be acted upon by the end of the day) and ‘action this week’ (emails that don’t require immediate action and can be left until the end of the week to reply to). Try out this method and see how it works for you.

Streamline your services and suppliers

Once this is all sorted, consider the very structure of your company. Do you have a hard time keeping track of all your outgoing costs? It’s possible you may be able to get rid of software subscriptions you don’t use or opt for insurance bundles rather than separate insurance schemes from separate insurers. You could even outsource a supply chain management company to collect all your bills and streamline them all into one bill that you then pay to the supply chain management company.  As for your services, consider whether you’re offering too many different products. Common culprits include restaurant menus with too many options or shops with too large an inventory – try to focus on what sells so that you have less to keep track of.

Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".

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