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For spring cleaning, cleanse the clutter – but also clear morale-marring negativity

Spring cleaning is something some of us do in our personal lives. It can be a valuable exercise to incorporate into our professional lives too. Clutter detracts from productivity. Even if one functions well in a messy office, there is time lost in searching for needed items, and clutter is a source of distraction.  

Finding the time

Spring cleaning takes a good deal of time and it is not fun. As such, we will avoid it if we do not set aside time to do it. Consider reserving some time during a few weekends over the spring to tackle this project. Your momentum will inevitably build once you get started.     

Scan, store or shred

Many of us would love to go paperless but struggle with putting that into practice. Paper piles up throughout the year and we hold on to things we think are important. This includes business cards, magazines and old files. Use spring cleaning as a time to sort through these. 

For business cards, record the contact information either manually or by scanning them and then throw the card out. There are apps for most phones that allow you to scan information from a business card directly into your contacts database. 

For magazines or other items you collected thinking you would read or use them, decide whether you actually will. Chances are, if you have not done so by now, you are not going to anytime soon as it is clearly a low priority. Throw them out.

For old physical files, use this time to determine which ones must be kept. Everything else can be scanned and the physical file destroyed. 

Throw out old CLE files

Many lawyers are guilty of being hoarders of CLE materials. Small firms, especially if you have inherited one from another lawyer, often have binders of old CLEs, some dating back decades. While the odd one might still contain valuable and relevant information, many can be thrown out. If you must keep them, consider scanning them and throwing out the physical copies. Not only does scanning the material make finding information faster, but it saves you some physical space too.   

Remove old items from client status lists

Checklists can become unwieldy if we stuff them with too much information. Often there are old files or old information that no longer need to be on a checklist. Determine how far back you want your checklist to go and archive anything beyond that cut-off date. 

Purge the negative attitudes in your office

Use spring cleaning to try to clean out negativity in your office. Sit down with staff and give them an opportunity to discuss concerns and where they see areas that could use improvement. Develop a plan so steps are actually taken to create an environment that works for them. You can also take some time to assess areas of your practice that are fouling your mood and what you can do to change that. Periodically purging negativity will go a long way to retaining key people in your firm and improving your mental health.  

There is no getting around the fact that spring cleaning is a chore. However, the rewards of increased productivity and focus will be well worth the effort. So select a few key areas, roll up your sleeves and start cleaning.