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Posted by on May 1, 2012

5 Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Psyche

Spring has sprung early this year. From the rescheduling of the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC, to the record setting pollen counts in Atlanta, no one can argue that Mother Nature decided to exit her Winter hibernation a bit sooner than usual this time around.

And with Spring comes a few rituals that we’ve come to embrace over the years: the Easter Egg hunt on the White House grounds, the Spring practices of college and pro football teams, longer days and shorter nights, and all the other outdoor activities that we associate with warmer temperatures.

My question for you, however, relates to the indoor activities of your workplace. We can certainly engage in physical Spring cleaning activities: throwing away outdated files, rearranging some of our furniture, and scouring our office surfaces with pine-scented cleaners. But what about the internal opportunity we have to start something new and fresh? What can we commit to doing differently to become even more effective in our work? How do we break from those habits, behaviors, and activities that are not serving us well?

Here are five simple steps you can use to begin the Spring Cleaning of your psyche.

  1. Take an honest look at what you’re doing. This one is simple enough. For one week, track all of your activities. If you’re the person who says, “There aren’t enough hours in a day,” or you frequently tout your multi-tasking skills, ask yourself why. Why do some people get a lot more done, while not seeming to work as hard as you? The key here, as with all of these steps, is to be honest.
  2. Take an honest look at what you’re not doing. Every time you choose to do something, you’re intentionally choosing not to do something else. This one can be difficult for people to understand. If you’re a leader with an “open door” policy, you’re also choosing not to give yourself some needed down time. If you’re constantly responding to email and other distractions, you’re also choosing not to give your brain time and space to focus on the other, perhaps more important, tasks at hand. Only you know what the true cost is of what you choose to do.
  3. Engage in scenario planning with yourself. After you’ve taken some time to examine where you’re spending your time and energy, play a few what ifs. What if you closed your door from 8-9, and then 4-5 every day? You’ve taken time to focus, plan your day, or plan your tomorrow. What if you responded to emails less frequently? Again, only you know if a strategy like this will work for you and in your environment.
  4. Choose one thing to do differently. The great thing about scenario planning is during the planning phase, all of the results are hypothetical. You don’t know how things are going to play out. Only once you begin doing something different (or differently) can you see the actual results on your workload.
  5. Practice. You may have heard that it takes 21 days of doing something differently to become habit. While that’s a convenient rule of thumb, the actual time it takes for a new behavior to become internalized may take more or less time, depending on how long you’ve been doing it in the first place.

Spring is a great time to take stock, recalibrate, and try something new. If we’re not afraid to examine what we’re doing, we may be surprised at what we can do.

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