When you work as a freelance designer or own a business, it is easy to let little things go until your world becomes cluttered, both online and off. Getting organized allows you to stay on top of tasks and build a more successful business. Let’s face it, clutter is distracting. Getting organized allows you to focus on building your business and client base instead of getting lost in the chaos.
A disorganized workplace and online environment can stifle productivity, decrease morale, impact your relationship with clients and harm your reputation. Taking time to do a good spring cleaning of both your physical and virtual places is key to being more organized, keeping up with clients and growing your business.
Seventy-five percent of small business owners cite disorganization as the reason for business struggles. There is no reason to focus exclusively on one or the other, though. You can clean up both your online and offline spaces simultaneously with this weekday cleanup plan.
Day 1: Make a Plan
Spend the first day planning out how you’ll clean up your spaces. If you go into the cleanup with a plan in place for how you’ll organize things, the entire process will go more smoothly.
Offline space: Take time to inventory what is in your office space. What do you never use that you can get rid of? For example, if you have an extra computer monitor that you’ve saved just in case, go ahead and donate it to Goodwill. Plan for the best way to organize the space once you get everything decluttered.
Online space: Look at your email system. Is there a better way to organize it? Plan out how you can add filters and folders to more easily access work. Would it be best to create a folder for each client, or a general folder for all client emails? You should also take time to review project management software.
Day 2: Trash Day
Once you have a plan in place and you’ve made some decisions about what you can live without, spend the day getting rid of clutter.
Offline space: Get rid of anything extra you aren’t using. Throw out old papers you no longer need. Remove anything from your office that doesn’t belong there. If you want to use your home office space as a tax deduction, it must only contain things related to your business.
Online space: Clear out your email inbox. One single email can steal 15 minutes away from your focus. Going to a zero-based inbox is one way to deal with all the email clutter. With Inbox Zero, you’ll ask yourself a few questions to decide whether the item is actionable, goes into the trash or should go into a “later” file.
Day 3: Clean up the Area
One you get rid of the clutter, it’s time to do some cleaning and make everything look fresh and new. The atmosphere you work in has a big impact on your overall motivation and attitude. A clean work area helps promote health. Sick days cost businesses more than $225 billion annually. Keeping your area tidy and germ-free reduces illness and save your company money.
Offline space: Clean from the top of your office space down to the floor. Start by cleaning out air vents, light fixtures and dusting for cobwebs. Next, dust furniture and sweep and mop the floor. Finally, clean the walls, removing any stains and touching up paint if needed.
Online space: Take time to look over your website. Has it gotten cluttered with content that isn’t relevant? Tidy things up and make sure you have some overriding categories that create a site hierarchy. If you’ve gotten bad reviews, invest in a service that helps push them to the bottom of search results. Cleaning up your online reputation may be as important as cleaning up your actual physical space.
Day 4: Organize the Mess
Once everything is neat and tidy, come up with an organizational system. This will keep everything neat and tidy long after you’re done cleaning and give you a system to clean more easily the next time.
Offline space: File or store anything you don’t need this minute. Just make sure you use a system you can easily remember, so you can find those items later. Even small items such as paper clips and rubber bands should have a specific spot in your new office, and the items that go in those designated spots should always live there.
Online space: Create filters and folders in your email inbox, so everything is automatically organized wherever it needs to be. This system will allow you to seek out client emails first, or keep a handle on the most important project notes.
Day 5: Do a Final Sweep
Now that you’ve decluttered, cleaned and organized everything, take time to pay attention to the fine details you might have missed in the cleaning process. This will give you the final bit of organization that will inspire you to be more creative and productive.
Offline space: Take time to deep-clean items such as your computer screen and your keyboard. Get all those little crumbs and bits of dust out of every corner of the room. Take the time to freshen things up by diffusing some essential oils or spraying fabric freshener on the curtains.
Online space: Ask someone you know who is highly organized or hire a professional to look over your online organization for your business. Is your site organized in a way that works well for the user? Can you tweak anything else in your inbox? Are there emails you can automatically send to the recycle bin?
Clean Up Online and Offline
Once you’ve gone through the cleaning process, take time to evaluate your space. Are things as organized as you’d like? If not, you can repeat the process above until it is. Once you have everything organized, you’ll also want to stay on top of maintaining your system, so you don’t create additional clutter or allow important tasks to slip away from you.