One of my favorite lines of poetry is by John Milton: “Tomorrow, to fresh woods and pastures new.” The poet wasn’t writing about work, but those words certainly apply to the longing we sometimes have for a fresh start. If you can’t start fresh, you can at least freshen things up in your work space and in your mind and spirit as well. January is a good time for that. (February through December can be, as well.) Here are the basics:
1. Do the most obvious cleaning and tidying first, so those who visit your work area will notice and you will get a positive feeling right away. Completely clear the top of your desk or work top and wash and sanitize it. Wash or dust everything, even if the items don’t appear to be dirty. You will probably be surprised at how much dust and dirt you remove.
2. Decide what needs to be on your desktop before you put anything back. Consider the items that you think of as necessary to have in front of you or at least close at hand. Apply the test of asking how often you use the item and when you used the item last.
If you don’t use an item but you want it for the cool factor (the red Swingline stapler that shows you like the cult movie, Office Space, for example), maybe it is time to move on from there. Maybe not, but at least think about it. By the way, that Milton isn’t related to John Milton, the poet.
3. After you have the essential items in place, consider the other things you have in and around your work space. What about freshening up the photos, cards, notes and other things that you may not even notice anymore? Replace them with new items or rearrange them to add some freshness. Or, take them home and don’t put anything in their place and see how open your work area feels.
4. Your next project can be to sort through desk drawers, bookshelves, the items you have under your desk, things on the cubicle walls and stuff and things in general. Down the line you can work on paper files, books or old forms and items that are no longer needed. You may not get to those things for a while, but at least the area where you do your work will look more fresh and appealing. If not to you, to those who come into your work space.
The bottom line: You will probably have few opportunities to move to completely fresh woods and new pastures in your life and career. You may have thought you were doing that, only to find that the grass was not as green as it looked from the other side of the pasture fence. Try a simple thing like making a fresh and clean work area. After that, focus on creating a fresh you. You can probably also use that at home!