Weekly Prep and Clean-Up

If you’ve ever toiled in a workshop – or watched someone else do it – you know the many benefits that come with keeping an orderly workplace: neat and clean, with everyday tools arranged for easy access.

The relatively small effort required to prepare for your bread-and-butter activities greatly facilitates productivity and success whether you’re working with your hands – woodworking, gardening, repairing machinery, and so forth – or working with your head.

The problem is that during the busy, even hectic times when you’re actively engaged in completing your bread-and-butter tasks, projects, and goals, it’s difficult and distracting to keep your workplace ready for action.

That’s why it’s helpful to block out a few special minutes each week for a three-step process that helps you close out what you’ve accomplished and prepare for the next round of responsibilities and challenges.

Here’s an approach I’ve found broadly useful to prepare for maximum productivity and success:

Close Out What’s Done

I gain an undeniable satisfaction from moving my finished tasks, projects, and goals away from my everyday workspace, leaving it neater, cleaner, and better prepared for action.

I sometimes think of this as putting the finished work in a box in a storage room, shipping it out to its final destination, or perhaps displaying it on a shelf where I can admire and remember the effort I put into it, the difficulties I overcame as I worked on it, and the results I obtained by completing it.

This process will probably bring you the same benefits it brings me.

You’ll find that closing out what’s done not only opens up and optimizes your physical workspace, it also frees up mental and emotional capacity so you can more fully engage with whatever task, project, or goal you’ll work on next.

Part of this “closing out” process should involve at least a few minutes reflecting on what you went through as you worked on the completed task, project, and goal. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s helpful to think about:

  • What you did right,
  • What you did wrong,
  • How well you met your original performance standards, and
  • What you can do better next time.

This kind of reflection and analysis helps you identify more of the lessons and experience that’s available in what you’ve just accomplished, and encodes them into your head and your heart so you can more readily make use of them in the future.

Contemplate the Big Picture

As I’ve explained fairly often, every time you complete a task, project, or goal, you automatically get to make a Basic Choice about what you’ll do next. But rather than just move on to whatever’s next on your To Do list, it’s helpful to broaden your perspective before you choose.

This gives you an opportunity not just to do things right, but to do the right things.

Contemplating the big picture at regular intervals helps you consider and get comfortable with such strategic matters as:

  • Your values and preferences,
  • The long-term direction your efforts are taking you,
  • How closely your direction aligns with your values and preferences,
  • New opportunities currently in front of you or appearing on the horizon, and
  • Possible changes of direction you might want to consider, or make.

If you’ve got your values and efforts closely aligned, and you’re pursuing the best opportunities available to you, this contemplation of the big picture might take only a few minutes. Other times, it might take much longer.

Either way, it’s a valuable effort that will help prevent you from later regretting too many of your choices, efforts, and activities.

Outline the Upcoming Week

This isn’t the first time someone is telling you about the advantages of advance planning, so I won’t berate you about it.

But I will say that, in my experience, an hour of planning – deciding what you’ll prioritize, what you’ll work on, what resources you’ll need to make good progress on your planned tasks, projects, and goals, and what other efforts you’ll defer until a better time – will nearly always save you many hours of actual execution.

Planning doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but – even done poorly – it nearly always sets the stage for you to focus on your most important responsibilities and opportunities.

If you make this preparation and clean-up effort a regular part of your schedule, you’ll find it accelerates your productivity and success in both your work and your life.

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