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Spring Cleaning Your Life

By: Michelle LaBrosse
Posted: October 17, 2008, from the November 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

When considering the phrase “spring cleaning,” many tend to think of taking large garbage bags and purging life’s clutter. Although that is tempting, the old garbage bag approach is just a quick fix and doesn’t address the reason why the clutter exists in the first place. Instead, it is important to develop long-term solutions that help keep your projects moving along and make sure you enjoy the success you deserve.

Following are seven tips that apply project management concepts to the idea of spring cleaning.

  1. Probe the pile. If there is always a pile—or multiple ones—in your work space or your home, the question is: What’s in the pile? When sorting through a pile, you’ll find the answer to a missing link in your system. For example, if you begin organizing a large pile on your desk and there are several articles that you want to read, receipts that need to be scanned and a lot of unopened mail, the question is, do you have a system for dealing with each of those things? Create places and systems for the clutter in your life, and it will disappear.
  2. Think before you print. Electronic filing systems are not just environmentally friendly, they really help you to keep your projects on track. If you’re constantly printing out paper before you’ve made a decision about how to act on that document, you may just be printing out of habit and not out of necessity. Pause before you print, and you’ll find less paper to distract you—you’ll have only what you need in front of you.
  3. Cultivate everyday actions. Spring cleaning really can’t be a once-a-year activity. For you to be effective, everyday actions must be cultivated. Determine the most important action that can be done today to move you closer to your project goal. When you talk with authors, they almost always focus on the importance of writing every day. Even when they are not writing a book, they continue to exercise the muscle so it’s supple and ready. What do you need to do every day to meet your goals and make sure you’re not just taking stock of your progress once a season? Make milestones an important part of every project, no matter the size. Everyday actions are what connect today to your long-term goals.
  4. Right brain meets left brain. Cleaning is not just about clearing the decks; it’s also about cleaning up misunderstandings and aligning a team. One method that works very well when dealing with teams is to assign two polar opposites to learn about each other. Assign your resident neat freak to work with your resident master pile-maker. Their assignment is to spend a day working together and observing each other. How do they do their jobs differently? At the end of the day, what did they learn from each other? The point you want them to understand is that everyone contributes differently and uniquely to a team, and each member can learn from each other.
  5. Remove the clutter. If a team member is not performing, it’s often because something is bothering them that is taking up a lot of energy and cluttering their mind. The key is to remove that clutter as quickly as possible. Is there a tough conversation that you’re dreading and keep avoiding? Is there a conflict on your team or in your family that you haven’t resolved? Ask yourself what’s taking up too much space in your own personal hard drive and delete it quickly. Nothing feels more liberating than to be on the other side of something you’ve been thinking about too much.
  6. Clean up your relationships. Spaces are not the only areas that require spring cleaning; relationships do, too. Sometimes when people get too busy, they neglect the care and feeding of relationships with both team members and family members. If there is someone who has been on your mind, now is the time to make that call and have that discussion. Is there a team member who isn’t working well on your team? Now is the time to clear the air and find out why. Are you in a rut at home with your family? Surprise them and break out of your routine. Small changes can speak volumes to the people you work with and the people you love.
  7. Reward yourself. Once you have your personal and professional house in order, don’t forget to reward yourself. Whether it’s an online course to put you on the fast track or a day off to be a tourist in your own town, take the time to recognize your own achievements.