I started my first job at age 16, working part-time for a local pizza place in my hometown. The dining room seated around 50 people, and there were only 3-4 of us employees in the kitchen each shift. The workload had its ups and downs: one night you might be so busy that you didn’t sit down at all, and the next would be so slow that you’d get your initials on the Pac-Man cabinet’s high scores list.
As the new kid, my duties started with bussing tables and washing dishes. It didn’t take me long to learn that the dishwashing station was actually just a barometer for the restaurant as a whole: if dirty dishes are stacked 4 trays high when you get to work, you’re going to have a bad night. If you show up and the sink is empty, you’ve got it made.
I soon found out that the best way to start my shift was to clean the sink: take care of any dishes in the dirty pile, and stack the clean plates for the servers. Once my workstation was squared away, I was mentally and physically ready for the rest of the night’s tasks.
These days, my work is a lot less tangible. I write software, provide customer support, perform research, and write blog articles. But it’s just as easy for messes to pile up on my desktop as it was for dishes to gather in my sink, so I’ve found it helpful to establish a morning cleanup routine to mentally prepare me for the day ahead.
Organize your physical workspace
I have a bad habit of letting my desk get cluttered (even though I bought the biggest desk surface I could find). And since I work remotely, it’s easy to let both personal and work related items pile up. When I sit down each morning, that clutter can be distracting. When it’s particularly messy, I find that taking 10 minutes to tidy up always helps me refocus:
- Move small items and papers to a desk drawer or cabinet (out of sight, out of mind – at least temporarily)
- Keep cables and chargers out of sight with a cable management system (I’m a fan of Bluelounge’s CableBox)
- Wipe down displays, keyboards, mice, and the desk surface
Organize your digital workspace
Once I’m booted up and ready to go, I also like to tidy my productivity applications:
- Respond to any customer support requests
- Clean out the inbox
- See which DoneDone issues are waiting on me
- Review my ongoing ‘to do’ notes and remove any completed tasks
- Check my calendar for today and the rest of the week
Just like my old dishwashing station, these apps do a great job of letting me know how hectic my day will be. If I start off with 15 unread customer emails or 10 pushed-back issues, I know I’m in for a busy day. But whenever that happens, I just focus on cleaning my sink first. Once my pile of tasks is organized, I can move on to the rest of my work day distraction-free.
Clean or clutter?
Some do argue that a messy workspace is a good thing, particularly for creative types. Personally, I always feel more productive when my workspace is neat and tidy. What are your thoughts? Let us know at @getdonedone!