We’ve been working from home since before it was…relatively standard (you thought we were going to say “cool,” didn’t you? Gotcha!) and we know that sometimes you’re so in the work that you don’t take the time to take stock of not only your environment but also how you’re spending your day.
This is your sign that the time has arrived.
We spend our days doing big, fulfilling work (hopefully) and don’t always take a step back to assess. So, why not use the concept of “Spring Cleaning” to do just that? Whether you want to scrub your current client load or think of ways to make your workspace more productive, we’ve put together a list of seven ways we’re spring cleaning our businesses this season.
1. Do a Client/Role Inventory
Two of the most important questions we ask ourselves every spring cleaning season are: “What parts of my work are filling me up?” and “What parts of my work are draining me?” These questions serve you whether you work for yourself or for someone else. The answers to those questions could lead to important conversations with your boss, if you’re an employee, or big changes to your business if you’re self-employed. Remember: Every relationship you have, transactional or not, should be mutually beneficial. How can you make your days as joyful as possible? How have your priorities evolved this quarter? Take five minutes to write it out, marinate on it, and let us know if any changes come from it.
We like to be analog and support local shops while we do this exercise. Walnut Street Coffee in Edmonds has perfectly portable notebooks you can grab and take to a table while you sip your drink (highly recommend this approach). If you’d rather sit and look at art while you journal about your life plans, pop into the gift shop at Cascadia Art Museum to grab one of their notebooks. Don’t sleep on Half Price Books in Lynnwood if you’re on your way to a park bench or the beach to do your journaling. They usually have a pretty big selection of notebooks at great prices!
2. Assess Your Systems
Are you working as efficiently as you could be? If you’re self-employed, are you using an email or texting system for marketing? Do you have a business admin system that keeps all your projects in one place? If not, now’s the time! Depending on the size of your business, most of these programs pay for themselves—we’re talking not even a week’s worth of coffees for a system that ensures you’re getting paid on time. Check out Harlow, an all-in-one suite built by and for freelancers that just launched (one of the founders spent six years of her career in Seattle before settling in nearby Coeur d’Alene). You’ll never have to chase money or build a proposal from scratch again.
If you’re working for a company, consider your team meetings, call schedules, and processes for collecting feedback—are there ways you can build efficiencies into your days?
3. Delete Old Images, Emails, Videos, and Files
There were a few years of my (Whitney’s) corporate career when I was Alaska Gold status by March, and I spent the time before takeoff deleting photos from my phone. This was back before I bought an iPhone with extra cloud storage and was working as a social media manager, so it felt like a necessary part of my job, however, I still find it to be a helpful habit. Whether it’s your phone or your laptop, or that annoying “You’ve used 91% of your available storage—want to buy more?” notification from Gmail, you’ll be amazed at how much space you can clear both on your devices and in your head. Pro tip: If you’re clearing out emails, start by running an advanced search for anything >1MB. Can you tell we’ve done this before?
Let’s say you’re waiting on a friend to meet you for a working lunch (we like Santa Fe in Edmonds with their roomy booths and salsa we could drink with a straw and Isarn Thai Soul Kitchen in Lynnwood for their selection and young coconuts. If brewpubs are more your vibe, head to Diamond Knot in MLT). Spend your time waiting for your buddy clearing out some files. Do it in spurts. It’ll serve you well later.
4. Refresh Your Mugs
There is something about settling in for the day with the perfect cup of something comforting. Spring is the ideal time to do a mug inventory in your cupboards and treat yourself to something new that gets you in a blissed-out productivity mode (yes, that’s a thing!). Check out local maker Pottery by Eleni for something gold-rimmed and custom, paint one yourself at Glazed & Amazed in Edmonds, or stop into your favorite local coffee shop to get a cup from their retail shelf that makes you feel great about supporting local (and Earth Month by investing in a reusable!). At the intersection between Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood, Woods Coffee has iced coffee lovers covered with their Eco-Cedar Reusable Tumbler. No excuses! Plus, it really does feel great to look at your favorite logos from your desk.
5. Make Your Space Work for You
With birds chirping outside your window, it’s time to pull together a space that reflects the outside cheer you can hear. Good Vibes Apothecary on 99 in Lynnwood has a wide selection of essential oils and incense to stimulate your senses (and your brain!) and The Wishing Stone in Edmonds can set you up with any kind of stone you can imagine, all of which have different properties—from calming, to clearing, to loving. And, if we know anything about working with other humans, we know sometimes we need to work harder to conjure up those loving feelings. A little rose quartz never hurt anyone! You can also get sensible things like desk organizers and filing cabinets and keyboard stands to make your space productive. HomeGoods in Lynnwood is always fun for those, but we’re here to take it all to the next level, so humor us with the oils and stones.
6. Check-In With Your Schedule
Is your schedule serving you? Are you able to do anything about it? If you answered yes to both of those questions, or even if you answered maybe to the second one, consider trying a new way of working. We are all different people with different energy levels at various times in the day and with priorities pulling us in all sorts of directions. I (Whitney) recently decided to work longer on Monday and Tuesdays—assuming my client load needs me to—after my kids go to bed, which is something I never would have considered doing a few years ago. Boundaries! 9-5! Rules! But, I found myself wanting to take most of every Friday off and start my weekend with my kids early, so here we are. I really like it so far. And, when my minis go to school more hours in the day next year, I will probably change my schedule to accommodate our new needs again.
7. Invest In Continuing Education
As a curious person always looking to advance her business, I love an opportunity to add to my company’s menu. I’m about to take local travel blogger Postcards to Seattle’s online SEO course (she lives in Edmonds!) and am no stranger to flipping through the continuing education pamphlet we get in the mail each quarter from Edmonds College. Are there local courses you can take to serve you? What’s on the schedule at your local library? There is always an opportunity to learn something new in and from our community—and that is a beautiful thing.
So, are you feeling lighter? How’s your desk looking? What about that cuppa in your new mug? There is so much blooming around us right now, and you might as well add your work life to it. We’re looking forward to checking in with the so fresh and so spring-cleaned you next month!
— By Emilie Given and Whitney Popa
Emilie Given is a virtual assistant agency owner in Lynnwood, and Whitney Popa is a writer and communications consultant in Edmonds. They write this column together to share work-from-home ideas. They love where they live and are grateful the virtual world allows them to achieve more work/life harmony. They also co-host a weekly podcast where they share their entrepreneurship journeys while learning about those of others. You can learn more about Emilie here and more about Whitney here.