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My desk at work was looking pretty sad.  You know how it goes.  I've been at the same desk for awhile.  When I finished something, it got shoved into a drawer, maybe into a file folder, maybe not.  The desktop had been buried with papers, notebooks, and just about everything else an office desk get.  Plus, it was dusty and was just looking awful all around.  Since I spend so many hours per week here, I knew it was time for an overhaul.

Quite honestly, I wanted a top to bottom cleaning.  I decided that I wanted to touch every piece of paper, go through every item on the desk or in my drawers, and clean every surface.

Instead of trying to tackle all this in one day (and probably not getting anything done otherwise), I broke it down into nine segments.

  • Days 1-3 were focused on the desktop itself.  There are actually three pieces to the desktop surface as it was laid out during the building of the cubicles, so I focused on one section at a time.  The first section held many of my office supplies so those were cleaned and the desktop was wiped down.  The second held my PC and phone, so everything was wiped down and moved back.  The third held my big pile of papers, so going through all those was a big task.  Still, after three days (15-30 minutes per day) there was a big improvment already.
  • Day 4 focused on the shelves above my desk.  I have family pictures, I keep my coffee and water mugs, and other miscellaneous items.  Again, everything was taken down, gone through item by item, and put back after being wiped down.  Looked much better.
  • Days 5-6 were cleaning out my drawers.  My desk has two drawers.  One held pretty much anything that got thrown in there that wasn't paper related.  Somehow I accumulated lots of power and monitor cables, phone cables, etc.  These were all parsed down.  The other drawer had all my files and paperwork.  I cleaned this out, probably getting rid of 80% of it, information that was from closed projects which has since been archived electronically.  The shredding bucket got a big influx from me.
  • Day 7 was taking down everything from the walls and cleaning that up.  Over time, you stick something to the wall with a push pin that you need to be available at a flash, but just like anything else, much of that information is outdated.  The walls looked great!
  • Day 8 was removing and re-organizing all the cords.  For some reason, I wasn't using the grommet holes or power strips effectively, so I unplugged everything and re-ran all the cables, and it looks 100 times better.
  • Day 9 was going through and doing a general wipe-down and giving it a ‘final cleanup'.

Doing it this was made it so that this is the cleanest my desk had ever been.  If I tried to clean everything in one day, I probably would have rushed it towards the end knowing that I was taking a big chunk of time for a task that some might have questioned.  But, by doing it in chunks, I was able to focus on it and be more thorough than ever.

You can apply this to just about anything that requires an overhaul, including your personal finances.  If you are overwhelmed by all of your accounts, for example, you can break it down into manageable tasks.  Get your bank accounts in order one week.  Get your credit card accounts in order the next.  Get your retirement accounts in order, then your investment accounts.

Instead of trying to tackle big jobs with one big effort, spend some time breaking these down into smaller goals.

This will make it more manageable, less overwhelming, and you'll stay focused because of the fact that you're reaching goals along the way.

It doesn't have to be nine days, it can be nine weeks, five days, three months.  Whatever.  But, if you have a daunting task that needs to be done, look at how you can break it down.

Oh, and get started!