How to Clean Up Your Career

Is Your Career Cluttered?
When I declutter homes, one of the words that comes up a lot is space. Open space is an important element to feeling relaxed and comfortable in your home. When it comes to organizing a workspace, relaxation and comfort aren't the primary goals. Work is about efficiency and productivity. You need to know where things are. You need to get things done in order of priority. The more neat and logically organized your workspace is, the better you will be at your job. Look around your office (or wherever you work). Is it the space of someone you would hire, trust, and promote if you owned the business? Now look at the space of someone whose work or position you admire. How do the spaces compare?

Take a good, hard look at your space and be honest with yourself. Do you need that presentation from five years ago or the files you inherited on the project that got scrapped? How many shoes are under your desk? How many shopping bags are in your desk drawer? When you look for a pen, do you have to dig under piles of salt and pepper packets? You'll never clean up your career if you don't have a clutter-free environment in which to thrive. Again, the clutter-clearing process I use is consistent across emotional and physical clutter.

Create a vision for your career
Every item in your workspace should contribute to that vision. (See why I don't like the desk toys?)

Overcome obstacles
Papers accumulate like nothing else. The sheer volume of files can be daunting, but don't let the size of the task intimidate you. Just start with one area of your office or desk and work in steps. You can do this.

Make a Commitment
Commit time, even if it's only purging one pile every day. Lunchtime is a good time to purge. Let your colleagues know what you are doing and ask for help, you might even inspire them to clean up, too.

Set boundaries
Your desk is for working—that means you need space on it to do so. Papers belong in files, where they can be found when needed. Files belong in file cabinets. Keep your computer desktop clean and your e-mail inbox under control.

Little Changes
Make changes to your work routines in order to manage the clutter in your workspace on an ongoing basis.

Live in the present
This is the job you have now. Don't allow yourself to work in an unpleasant space because you hope it will change one day.

Face fears
Decluttering your office may mean facing issues you never dealt with. Is your hatred for your job buried under a ten-foot-tall to-file pile? Are you using office clutter to bury your dreams? Use what you learn to make changes. This new space and clarity will help you define your vision.

Celebrate successes
A clean workspace is a great foundation for a thriving career. Use the energy it brings you to take you even further.

Take Peter's quiz to find out if your career is cluttered.