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How to Maximize Productivity: First, Cut the Clutter

By Jeffery Leon

September 27, 2017

“Clearing Clutter: Tuning in to Time, Space and Mind,” led by LAP senior counselors Niki Irish and Yvette Mitchell

Look at your desk. Is it littered with stacks of papers and folders? Are there Post-it notes hanging from the edge of your computer screen? You might be living a cluttered life. For attorneys, clutter not only can be a hazard (lost files, misplaced documents, etc.) but also a mental drain, with piles of paper threatening your productivity and mental health.

On September 7 the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) presented the Lunch-and-Learn session “Clearing Clutter: Tuning in to Time, Space and Mind,” led by LAP senior counselors Niki Irish and Yvette Mitchell, to show attorneys the best methods to clear their workspaces, and, as a result, their minds.

“As daily demands, obligations, and responsibilities feel more and more overwhelming, it can become easy to avoid taking action on day-to-day tasks,” says Irish. “These demands can also take a toll on a person’s mental health. Our goal was to help lawyers start thinking about decluttering to not only meet their obligations and responsibilities, but to also reduce stress and positively impact their bottom line.”

Here are some key tips from the session to help you avoid getting buried under clutter:

  • Assess your situation. How do you want to utilize your space? Divide your workspace into “zones” for specific tasks, like a spot for your laptop, filing area, and archives. Keep your essentials at arm’s length and set limits on how much stuff you keep in your workspace. If you have a junk drawer, sort through it, and incorporate dividers and compartments for different items.

  • Maintain your workspace. Actively toss as much unneeded paper as possible. Electronically scan your notes and business cards. Archive the important items you don’t utilize daily. At the end of the day, spend a few minutes maintaining your workspace and cleaning up.

  • Declutter your digital life. You’ll benefit from cutting down on clutter on your phone and computer, too. Turn off unnecessary distractions. Organize your saved documents and cut down on the amount of icons you have on your desktop. Delete apps you don’t use. For social media, know what you want to get out of your social networking, and unfollow accounts that don’t cater to your interests.

    Set boundaries with your emails and phone calls as well: Establish specific times to check in, keep separate work and home accounts, and unsubscribe from email blasts you don’t need. Remember, if you get a request in an email that will take less than five minutes, respond immediately!

  • Work on decluttering your mind and body. Take some time out for yourself during the work day. Get physical by taking breaks to move, stretch, and get cardiovascular exercise. Practice mindfulness, including deep breathing and guided meditations. Also, work to be aware of negative thoughts.

  • Set goals. You can’t clear everything at once, so focus on specific tasks. Create a plan of action and stick to a checklist. Review and revise your goals periodically, and keep them visible and in the back of your mind.

For more tips and assistance on how to declutter your life, address stress, or manage other work–life concerns, visit the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program or call 202-347-3131.