Apparently - it’s National Clean your Desk Day - a day to look at starting the year with good habits and a tidy desk. After all, tidy desk, tidy mind, right? However, with the increasing number of people moving towards remote working - how many of us still have an office desk? Remote work, self-employment, coworking, hotdesking and mobiles have all radically changed the notion of work environments.
So, what does a tidy desk for a freelancer look like? What if you’re nomadic or exclusively work from your clients desks - a different desk every day? Worry not, you might not have a desk, but today could be a great day to think about some small business housecleaning techniques which may help manage your stress levels as a member of the modern workforce:
Rotten Invoices - are there any outstanding you need to chase? Rather than worrying every day - pick a day of the week, and work through all of them in a single go. If you’re facing any significant delays, pick up the phone and call - don’t just nudge by email.
Blocked Inboxes - the originator of the “inbox zero” concept has since suggested he made a mistake that constantly seeking the idea of “done” is a good one, especially as the more email you deal with only seems to increase the email coming in. Instead of dealing with emails immediately - block out time in your diary to deal with emails in a chunk. The best recommendation is not first thing in the morning, but mid-morning after you’ve done a good focused period of time, and then again mid-afternoon so you can help prioritise if anything has changed.
Daily, Weekly, Monthly Cleans - stealing the idea from home-cleaning of tasks which should be done daily (wiping the surfaces down), weekly (taking the bins out) and monthly (deep clean of the fridge) - set up a couple of daily, weekly and monthly rituals for housekeeping your business. Daily journalling, weekly planning, monthly reflections - for example. Daily todo-list setting, weekly accounting, monthly time-off. Have a think about the things you want to do regularly, and map them out using this approach. This way, you’ll have them booked in your calendar, and won’t be worrying about them until they’re ready to be done.
Pairing your odd socks - socks are a little of a metaphor here, but if you’re spending your morning hunting around for matching socks, you’re wasting valuable time and mental energy which could be used on better tasks. When you’re self-employed, look for shortcuts which mean your socks are already paired - such as investing in an app which keeps your receipts under control, or a banking service which has automated invoicing and reminder emails. Let technology take some of the burden of annoyingly small tasks (or just go barefoot).
Embrace the mess - our last suggestion is to discard the importance of a neat and tidy desk all together - there’s actually plenty of evidence to suggest that a messy desk leads to more creative ideas, and after all, you’re self-employed now - you don’t have an annoying co-worker complaining about your piles of notes and ideas. Explore and embrace the ways of working which work for you.