Spring has officially arrived, and it’s starting to feel like it too, with the trees budding and more birds chirping outside of our office windows. The season’s arrival has long been associated with cleaning and organizing our homes, but the new season also presents an opportunity to re-evaluate and reset in all areas of our lives, including work.
Using the change of seasons as a reset can help us boost productivity, increase focus and, ultimately, show up to work with a better mindset.
“Spring cleaning is a great way to filter all the unnecessary or ineffective stuff and redistribute your resources wisely,” said Olga Shapovalova, strategic management expert and business-to-business director at Headway, an education technology startup. “We need to be focused and productive every day for success and this is like doing a checkup for your everyday routine.”
We spoke to three professionals to learn what they recommend workers add to their spring cleaning checklist.
1. Look at what’s bringing you joy
Marie Kondo was onto something when she said we need to ask ourselves what sparks joy.
“Look at your calendar and see what causes you distress or makes you more anxious and then things that give you joy,” said Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, psychiatrist and chief medical officer at LifeStance Health. “Is the ratio comfortable for you?”
If you have an opportunity to move things around, Patel-Dunn suggested you do it. While sometimes we might not have the power to change everything we want that’s not bringing us joy at work, there are some things we can do.
For example, if there is a meeting that is causing you stress because it’s right before you need to pick your child up from school, it would be worthwhile to ask whoever it’s with if it can be moved. Or, if you are working with someone who has a different way of going about things, it could be helpful to add a call with them to figure out the best way to work together so that both parties can be successful.
“While you might not be able to do it today, as you look at April or May, there is an opportunity to really restructure your workday and your time,” said Patel-Dunn.
2. Redefine relationship dynamics
If you haven’t been happy with how your dynamic is with a boss or colleague, it might be the right time to schedule a meeting to discuss how the relationship could operate better for everyone.
Shapovalova said it’s all about ensuring alignment of goals between colleagues.
“We’re trying to practice radical candor to provide clear feedback, help people grow and foster internal mobility,” said Shapovalova. “It’s getting in line with our own ambitions and skills and the current business needs.”
While it requires psychological safety to have those conversations, they usually pay off, creating a win-win for workers and the company.
“Personal development should be the main focus for daily workflow,” said Shapovalova.
On the side of leaders who are partaking in spring cleaning, it’s worth eliminating excessive supervision, which can result in decreased engagement, Shapovalova added.
3. Automate repetitive tasks
Artificial intelligence is on the rise this year, and more platforms are helping us streamline our work. Miya McClain, vp of product management at work management platform Smartsheet, suggested taking advantage of automation tools and considering how they can help eliminate repetitive tasks.
“It’s about becoming more efficient at accomplishing everything you need to do,” said McClain. “Whether it’s color coding in your calendar, or email rules, or using platforms like Smartsheet. I can have a to-do list and have things I can check off automatically. It takes away a lot of work for you.”
Additionally, McClain suggested taking inventory of your desktop and getting more organized there.
“We know workers today are using 11-plus applications to get your job done,” said McClain. “It’s no longer about just Word, Excel and Slack. I don’t know what I’m working on and it slows my computer down as well.”
Aside from this, it’s a good time to clear out your inbox and get things sorted so you can head into the warmer months feeling more organized. Shapovalova suggested creating a labeling system for your emails if you don’t have one already.
“If I have a lot of unread messages, I always think about them,” said Shapovalova. “That’s why I try to read everything, but label it low to high importance. It gives me the opportunity to sort through it in a more productive way.”
4. Clean your physical workspace
Whether you’re working at home or in the office, or on a hybrid schedule, it’s worthwhile to spruce up your work area.
“Whether it’s digitally or in a physical workspace, a lot of people look at how their office is designed,” said McClain. “Having a beautiful physical workspace is really important.”
This could look like swapping an old printer you don’t use for a potted plant, or organizing a stack of books and putting them on a new bookshelf.
“I’m a huge post-its person, so I write down things I need to get done at work and in my personal life or even just write down quotes,” said McClain. “Those are all good things, but eventually I have to clean them out and recycle them.”
Changing out your post-it notes, displaying new photos of your family or friends, or changing the layout of the room can help create a more rejuvenated and revitalized feeling for your office space.
5. Add mindful moments to your calendar
While spring cleaning is beneficial in clearing out things from the past few weeks or months (or maybe even years), it’s also time to set new habits.
“Add mindful moments, moments for mental health and self care,” said Patel-Dunn. “Maybe it’s a break to just step outside of the office and go for a walk, grab a cup of tea.”
Patel-Dunn suggested at least two breaks per day during which you are stepping out and getting movement.
“It’s so healthy and helpful for overall well-being for mind and body,” said Patel-Dunn. “It’s an opportunity to make sure you’re addressing your self care at work. That’s really what I think spring cleaning and clearing is.”
The spring cleaning process isn’t going to happen overnight or even in a week. Patel-Dunn said its best to break it down into small steps.
“Maybe you start with Mondays, and you look at your Monday and see what feels good about it and what you might want to change,” said Patel-Dunn. “Maybe the next week, you look at your Tuesday. Break it down into pieces. Even putting on the calendar in June or September to revisit something, there is an opportunity to set yourself up with reminders.”