By Joni Lindquist

I took time during the holiday break to clean out my closets and storage areas in my home.  I was surprised how great this felt afterward.  My house now feels organized and more efficient.  I can actually find the things I need quickly now!  It felt so good to de-clutter and throw out or donate items I no longer use.

I also believe that physical activity and down time away from work often frees up your mind to think about your job/career more creatively.  As I cleaned out the closets, it occurred to me that I should do the same at work, albeit in a modified way.  I’m not referring to cleaning out your desk and office, which is fine, but rather your work – how are you spending your time?  Are you keeping your projects organized, keeping the useful and getting rid of the under-used?  As I went through closets, I created four piles:

  1. Keep – as is
  2. Keep but modify – perhaps by using storage bins
  3. Give to others – donate
  4. Throw out – broken or inoperable items

For business executives, it seems there is never enough time to get everything done.  Prioritization is an ongoing, key skill that the most successful executives master.  If you feel you can improve on this, perhaps my approach will help:

With your list of goals and initiatives as your foundation, consider the top priorities for you and your team.  Then use the “four pile” approach with these activities like I did with my closets at home:

  1. Keep – as is. These are the initiatives and activities you want to continue.  They are critical to driving your business forward and implementing the initiatives to reach your goals for 2016.
  2. Keep but modify – These activities are necessary, but perhaps you can modify to make them more efficient or useful. Perhaps getting them more organized into “piles” that are related to one another so that synergies can occur.
  3. Give to others – Are there projects your team your team is working on that may make sense to be completed by a different organization? Are there synergies elsewhere that would make the workflow more efficient?  Try not to be a control freak – look for ways to reduce the time and effort required to get things done.
  4. Throw out – This is the “pile” we tend not to do well. We add more and more activities and ask more of our teams rather than stopping unproductive or less impactful projects.  I recently saw Daniel Pink refer to this as the “To Don’t” list.  Start a “To Don’t” list and make it a practice to ask your team, “What can we STOP doing?”  This is so hard.  This list may be internal initiatives like meetings and reports, or external tasks.  You may be doing something in client service that has very little impact on clients.  Stop doing it and shift resources to the “KEEP” activities above.  Start this “pile” of “To Don’ts” and review it weekly.  It will only take a few minutes to review and alter it, but could save valuable time and resources for you and your team.

Start 2016 with a bang by cleaning out your work closets.  Set yourself up for success now by organizing then and focusing on your most important work activities.  For help purging your work closet, schedule a meeting by clicking below, contact Joni Lindquist –, or call (913) 345-1881.

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