6 steps to spring clean your workspace and boost productivity

After a gloomy winter, spring has finally arrived. Families are cheerfully dusting off the windowsills, throwing open the blinds and refreshing their living spaces.

For office workers, spring is “a time to refuel and re-energize and get your ducks in line so you can have a great productive spring, summer and fall,” says Ellen Faye, a certified professional organizer and president of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

So, whether you work in a home office, tiny cubicle or shared workspace, here’s how to spring clean your space to brighten your mood and be more productive.

[Read: How to Start Making Progress on Long-Term Career Goals.]

1. Make a date. “Make a commitment to yourself by scheduling an organizing session on your own calendar,” Faye says. “It’s not going to happen because you want it to happen.”

If your days are jam-packed, try squeezing in that time when the week is winding down on a Friday afternoon, Faye suggests. If your office allows it, come in on the weekend and make an afternoon of it.

For workers who use a home office, set a kitchen timer to keep your focus on cleaning, says Laura Stack, known as The Productivity Pro. Turn off your email notifications. Work offline. Do whatever it takes to focus on this once-a-year refresh.

[Read: 5 Signs You Have Problems Prioritizing Work.]

2. Trap yourself. Distractions are everywhere, so block them out. When cleaning home offices, for example, it’s easy to let the organizing session spill into other rooms of the house. One minute you’re picking dirty sweaters off the office swivel chair, the next you’re throwing them in the laundry room, doing a load of laundry, folding yesterday’s clothes … and the office is forgotten.

Throw anything that needs to be integrated into the rest of your home — clothes, dishes, your kid’s forgotten action figures — into a designated basket or box, Faye says. Don’t replace them until you’re done cleaning your workspace.

The same goes in a traditional office: Any papers that need to be filed, shredded or recycled go into separate boxes by your desk. You can take them to the filing cabinet or recycling bin only after you’ve finished.

Bonus: You can even place those boxes in front of the office door, so that you think twice before wandering off.

3. Consider your wingspan. Picture yourself as a fighter pilot and your desk as a cockpit, Faye says. Just like a pilot, you want everything you use regularly within arm’s reach. “If you hardly ever use it, I don’t want it in your cockpit,” she says.

That means that if you can’t go a few hours without referencing an important folder, place it within arm’s length. If you’re constantly stapling materials, keep your stapler within reach. Your rarely used pile of reference books? That can move to a more distant corner, or into filing cabinets or a credenza behind you.

4. Refresh your inbox. Spring is a “great time to take control of your technology,” says Maura Thomas, productivity and attention management speaker, trainer, author and founder of RegainYourTime.com, based in Texas. “Remember that tech exists for your convenience.”

When tackling your email messages, Thomas suggests creating an email folder called “old email,” “2015” or something similar. Move everything into that folder and take a moment to revel in your zeroed-out inbox.

Next, commit to maintaining a new, better email attack plan going forward.

Stack recommends following the “6-D” system, in which you look at each email and choose to discard, delegate, do, date, drawer (keep on file) or deter (unsubscribe). While it can be mentally taxing to get rid of emails, just like it’s tough to shred files and documents, the trick here is to “look forward, not back,” Stack says.

[Read: How to Solve Your Work-Life Imbalance.]

5. Clean the other desktop. Just like with your overflowing email inbox, an overloaded computer desktop is distracting and tough to navigate. Make a folder called “desktop” or “2015” and drag any old icons, documents and folders there. That way, you still have what you need, but “it’s corralled,” Thomas says.

6. Reward yourself. Once you’ve cleaned your space, it’s time to reward yourself. Go out and pick up a cool new calendar, a fun pencil holder or some fresh flowers for your cubicle.

Says Faye: “That should be the dessert. It should be your reward.”

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6 Steps to Spring Clean Your Workspace and Boost Productivity originally appeared on usnews.com

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