Small changes, big results: 2-minute tasks to maintain order

The following is a guest article by Jaimy Ford, editorial director of Briefings Media Group.

As a telecommuter, my home is my workplace. Because I like a change of location, I might work from my designated office, my dining room table or from a comfortable chair in my bedroom—the quietest spot in the house. I am home for a large part of my day, and I find that the normal messes that accumulate in a busy household can sometimes distract me from my work.

So to maintain order amid the chaos that two adults, two cats, one 160-pound mastiff and one very busy little toddler cause, my husband and I have set two rules:

  1. Never a leave a room empty handed. You can always find something to take with you to deposit in its correct spot. You’d be surprised by how that small practice can keep your space organized, with everything in its right place.
     
  2. If it takes less than two minutes to complete, do it now.  Rather than compiling a daunting to-do-later list, we just take care of it then and there. Wiping a dusty ledge or cleaning that tiny handprint smudge takes only seconds and allows us to stay on top of the household duties.

Because the process has worked so well for me in my home life, I have started applying it to the way I work in these ways:

  • I never exit out of an electronic folder without first deleting at least one old file.
     
  • When I am working with paper files—including my written notes—I always recycle at least one piece of paper.
     
  • If I find a file, pen, book or similar item out of place, I immediately put it in its home.
     
  • I deal with nagging items that require less than two minutes to complete as soon as they surface. Quick tasks like that aren’t worth adding to my to-do list. Plus, clearing them from my mind keeps me focused on important tasks.

What small changes have made a big difference in your work?

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