Do people still do “spring cleaning?” I’m probably revealing way too much information about by own housekeeping habits by asking this question, but the classic domestic ritual just doesn’t seem to get the same attention it used to, even though the concept remains solid. After months of being shut up inside during the winter, spring presents the perfect opportunity to throw open the windows and doors, shine some sunlight into the corners (where did those cobwebs come from?) and, as my mother says, “chase some dirt out of the house.”
While the historical context for spring cleaning involves drafty homes shut up against the cold and dark, kerosene lamps leaving smoke stains on the ceilings and coal stoves belching soot onto every surface, there’s more to it than that. On some level, I believe the concept of spring cleaning caught on because it got people thinking about housekeeping in a different way than their usual routine. It was bigger. It was broader. It was ambitious. But most important, it was a one-off. It wasn’t something you had to think about or do every week or every month — just once a year, which is perfectly doable and highly satisfying.
That got me thinking. Just as spring can be a great catalyst for clearing out the clutter and doing tedious household chores we’ve been ignoring since the first snowfall (or longer), why couldn’t the season also spur us to “clean up” other areas of our lives?
That’s when I landed on the idea of applying the clean-up concept to work. Even if we love our jobs, we all tend to fall into routines, develop bad habits, get distracted or become a bit sloppy. It happens gradually — the equivalent of having dust build up on a bookshelf and, sooner or later, you can use your fingertip to write “wash me” on the surface! Only this time the consequences are more stress, less enthusiasm, lower productivity and possibly missed opportunities.
So, I suggest doing an annual spring cleaning with a different focus: Improving productivity and potential for professional success. Here are a few ideas to get started — all of them very doable and highly satisfying, too:
Tidy your workspace
While recent reports suggest a messy desk is a boon to creativity, it can be a real productivity killer. Clean out and organize your files. Empty and sort the items in your “junk drawer.” Delete old emails and computer folders. Recycle past issues of magazines. And make your space nice to look at. Research shows offices with aesthetically pleasing elements, like plants and artwork, can increase productivity by up to 15 percent.
Rearrange your point of view
Switch up something in your environment. Move the furniture if you can, or just rearrange your desktop. Making even small changes in your routine and space can energize and trigger innovative thinking.
Dust off your initiative
A great way to feel like you’re getting a fresh start is to set a new goal. Determine to do one thing that’s outside your usual comfort zone. Mention your “big idea” to a colleague or write it up and submit it to your boss. Volunteer for a new assignment that excites you. Give yourself a deadline and put it on your calendar.
Polish your skills
Spring is a great time to sharpen existing job skills and learn new ones that can boost your value to the company. Enroll in a course or certification program or attend an industry workshop or conference. It’s a great way to shake off the cobwebs and get you back at the top of your game.
Written by: Diane Landsman
Diane Landsman is familiar to many in the HR community as a former editorial director at Human Capital Media. Now an independent communications strategist, writer and editor she helps enterprises educate, engage, influence and sometimes even entertain their audiences. Her specialty is crafting original content across media channels, from websites that attract searchers and keep them engaged to email campaigns, articles that put organizations on the map, and executive-level whitepapers, speeches, and op/ed pieces.