Cleanups less clutter less mind traffic

Cleanups equals more success.

Forget the pressure, cleanups will provide many answers.

Business owners and managers today, tend to be under a lot of pressure to perform. It causes you to lose sight of some important details involved in business cleanups. Routines have become habitual and few take the time to see the mess. The broken window, the grass growing on the street, the dust on the counter and the list goes on.

Perhaps in your planning, you can allocate the time to start a continuous improvement program? This would minimise the costs of cleanup as little bits could be done in the normal course of business and junk would not be allowed to accumulate.

The impact of clutter before cleanups begin.

A few years ago, before I moved to the country, I was surrounded by clutter in my ‘home office’. It was everywhere, in my office, in the spare rooms, in the garage, wherever I could fit it.  The part of the job I loved the most was working on product, writing,  designing tools and processes and their delivery.

Unfortunately, this was only about 50% of the work that I actually did. The rest of my time was taken up trying to control the constant flow of stuff. Keeping track of meeting notes, searching for files, while trying to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in our industry.

I was becoming mentally exhausted. Some days, I would feel that I hadn’t really accomplished anything. When we decided to make the break and return to our country lifestyle, things happened. Without taking ‘no’ for an answer, my family moved in to clean up and prepare our house for sale. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I was recovering from a serious operation and my defences were down.

Many hundreds of books in my library were the first to go, hundreds of books I had been accumulating for 50 years. “They are outdated, and you can get it on the Internet now Dad”, my daughter insisted. Many of my filing cabinets were ransacked by my wife (who has been my PA over the years and did most of the filing). And so it went on for weeks until the house was spick and span. What was essential was put into a storage shed in the community we were moving to.

Becoming a minimalist.

When we moved into our new home in Bathurst, I was allocated a room for my office. And space in the garage for the remaining bookshelves and filing cabinets. My son fitted up my new office including building a desk to my specifications. He did this on the proviso that I was to become a minimalist, no clutter as my office was adjacent to the front door of our new home.

I moved into my new office and as I started work, I began to enjoy working on a desk with no clutter. There were my computer screen, telephone and a couple of document trays. I was now forced to fix how I approached consumption in my business and how I focused on the creation of clutter. I now have more time for the things that mattered to us as a family the most.

Now that we have been here in Bathurst for a few years, I can say that this ‘minimalist approach’ has really worked. I believe the last year has been one of the most productive in my life. Without the clutter, I get more work done, I have more free time to do what we as a family want to do. We now focus our business on being a lifestyle business doing what we are passionate about; helping other people.

Clean up your to-do list,

When you have to-do-list items constantly floating around in your head or, you hear a ping every few minutes from your phone. Your brain doesn’t get a chance to fully enter creative flow or process your current experiences. When your brain has too much on its plate, it splits its power-up. The result? You become very inefficient at:

  • Paying attention to those in the conversation.
  • Filtering information.
  • Taking on new information.
  • Sluggish at switching quickly between tasks.
  • Keeping a strong working memory, keeping your mind on the job.

How clutter accumulates.

You collect things for a number many reasons and you always seem to be able to find an appropriate space for it. Maybe you think you’ll need to use it later, it has sentimental value. Or you spent good money on it so you feel you need to keep it, even if you haven’t used it in weeks, months, or years. You might be holding on to that book you bought a year ago that you swear you’ll read sometime soon. What about all those old computer parts, computer discs and  software packages. You paid big money for them but they are now outdated. It is as if clutter breeds like the wire ‘coat hangers’ you never use.

In reality with much of the accumulated clutter, you probably made a mistake in buying it in the first place. When it comes to physical things, merely touching an item can cause you to become more emotionally attached to it. Like that you-beaut new iPhone. You probably bought it because you thought you might need it one day, even though the shops are just down the street.  There are items that hold sentimental value and it literally hurts you to come to terms with the fact.
While technology holds many of the answers to removing clutter, it needs to be watched as well. Overconsumption of digital clutter has the same effect on your brain as physical clutter.

Cleanups will cause attitudes to change.

Employees and customers tend to accept the status quo until one day they find a better environment, or place to work and do business. Eventually, and usually from some external influence, you start to take a second look at how things can be improved. On some occasions losing a customer or employee becomes a wake-up call. All hell breaks loose as blame is apportioned and cleanup tasks are assigned.

People feel excited when their environment has had a good cleanup, it’s like a breath of fresh air. You can see an instant change in their attitudes and work performance. Think about how good you feel after you have had a good haircut.

Whether it be your cupboards or desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. That’s exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s performance in an organised versus disorganised environment. The results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention. Result decreased performance and increased stress.

Where do you start cleanups?

Sometimes you need to step back and take a closer look at what’s going on in your business, in terms of the environment. The parts of the environment that are of concern to customers and employees, should be the first ones to clean up.

There never seems to be the time to revisit the basics of the business. To tune up the operations, improve customer service and fix the broken furniture along with giving the place a much-needed lick of paint. Here are some simple ways to start the ball rolling to clean up your business.

  • Start with the coffee cups – Nobody likes a dirty kitchen, but few take the responsibility to keep it clean and tidy. This is particularly important for visiting customers and others who support your business.
  • Organise a rubbish dumpster – Have the team clear out all the junk, old boxes, old equipment and parts. In fact, everything that is impeding your capacity to maintain productivity and give good customer service.
  • What about your office – Lead by example, tidy up your office, get rid of the piles of unread magazines and other stuff you are hoarding. While most customers don’t like to see a mess, they do appreciate a comfortable and private place to do business. Clear your desk for action, after all, it is part of your toolbox to run the business.
  • Check your outsourcing opportunities – It’s difficult to keep up with the demands of modern business. So, when the cleanup is on it’s a good time to consider outsourcing,  Outsourcing could greatly enhance your image, customer service as well as improve your productivity and many mess creators could be removed.

Cleanups should get down to the detail.

Obsolete machines, tools, old computer hardware seems to attract more clutter. Make a point of disposing of junk and obsolete equipment. While you are at it, it is also a good idea to vacuum behind, under and over the whole business. Perhaps no one has vacuumed behind the refrigerator in years and that broken power-point should be fixed along with putting new batteries in the smoke alarms.

When you are having cleanups, take a second look at your equipment. Is it modern, clean, tidy, in good repair and able to do the work efficiently? Is it what our customers and employees expect from the business. If you have money to spend, spend it on new information technology and communications, to either improve customer service, business efficiency, or both. It’s a competitive world out there and you need everything working in alignment.

Clean up your files.

Take some time to understand how your computers and systems gather and manage the information and knowledge required by the business. With software today, most of what you do ends up creating or using files, files that need to be available on demand.

Computer files are often out of sight out of mind. Along with emails, they can quickly become one big mess, where nobody can find things anymore. Analyse your databases and remove obsolete files and do some restructuring. This could be an opportune time to invest in some new applications for the business. It could also be time to revisit your backup procedures and even move them into new and more efficient cloud applications.

Cleanups are critical for your online profiles and presence.

Is your brand being represented as effectively as it could be? Now is a good time to tighten things up and fix up all the details that, although they don’t take a lot of effort, can have a big impact on your stakeholders.

While the big cleanup is on don’t overlook the need to update your website and social media. Work through and take stock of what your online presence is like. Is there some content that should be rewritten to be more appealing. Could it more accurately reflect any shifts in your target market or the services you are focusing on at this time?

Noise is often considered as clutter.

Clutter, whether physical or digital, is something you’ll always have to deal with but it can be controlled. One factor that can add considerably to clutter is excessive noise. Finding ways to manage the noise around you will work in your favour. By freeing your mind, leaving room for you to create and experience life without constantly suffering the irritation.

Do you ever wonder why people today aren’t getting your message? Maybe you can relate to how they feel, bombarded, stressed, overloaded while looking for something amidst the noise of life that will make a real difference. Hitting people with more information, promotions, blogs and brochures isn’t helping them find a good level of activity. This noise can be real clutter and needs to take into consideration during your cleanups.

Don’t forget to brush the dust off your Business Plan.

Often, you might think that just because your business is going well that no changes are necessary and your Business Plan isn’t useful anymore.  Regular cleanups of your Business Plan will improve profitable growth and sustainability. Revisiting the basic values and foundations you built your business on, will always be beneficial. Particularly if you start with a thorough analysis of your Business Model and its operation. If you are struggling with your planning, the One-Page Business Plan could be a big help in focusing your planning efforts,

Community cleanups.

Unsightly litter in your local community is a distraction and simply adds to your personal clutter as you walk, jog, or drive around.  Why not organise a community cleanup? Getting involved in a cleanup is easy, people will respond readily to a little bit of leadership.  It can also be fun, refreshing and rewarding for you. the community and its visitors. Obviously, if everyone looks after their local community, it will have a significant effect on the environment as a whole while improving business efficiency across the community.


By doing regular cleanups you will play an active role in keeping your community tidy making it a better place to live and work. While one-off cleanups are effective in removing litter, keeping an area litter-free is proven to act as a deterrent to litter. Just as it’s time for a business cleanup or some spring cleaning, so is time for your community.

Quotable quotes

“A clean desk can be seen as unproductive, or an indication that your work is being completed”. Peter Sergeant

“There is a level of immaturity to people who can’t clean up after themselves”. Jan Wenner

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