springcleaning_resizedThe grass is green, the birds are singing and allergies are at full force...Spring is here in the Midwest!  And with this season comes the annual task of "Spring Cleaning."   Have you done yours yet?  Or like me, have you been too busy with work, kids activities and vacation that you have barely started, if at all?  For those of us that need a little push in the right direction, I give you a unique approach to tackling what can seem to be a massive project. 

This approach comes from the LEAN Office method for work improvement focusing on eliminating waste, reducing costs and improving efficiency. (As a little background, the LEAN concept was originated by Taiichi Ohno from Toyota who created the concept for his Toyota managers. Originally developed for manufacturing, the LEAN concept has been adapted for the office environment.) The LEAN Office method is used to create a clutter-free, organized, productive and visually appealing environment.  Whether you are Spring cleaning your office or your home, this method can make the task a little less overwhelming.

Stand in a Circle Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to increase your awareness of areas of waste, inefficiency and cost.  It is said to have started with Ohno drawing a chalk circle on the floor and telling managers to stand in it for hours in order to teach them to see waste.  80% of what you notice during this exercise will lead to only incremental improvements in your environment, while 20% will lead to the greatest improvement in your chosen space.  With this exercise you are able to prioritize those tasks that will impact your space, time, energy (physical and/or emotional), money and health savings the most.

  1. Set aside at least 1 hour of time
  2. Print out the template provided at this link.
  3. Grab a pen or pencil, a hard writing surface and some comfortable shoes.
  4. Stand in the center of your room or space
  5. Start at one corner of your space and in the Observation column on the first page you printed, write down everything you see that needs to be done.  What needs to be purged? cleaned? fixed? changed? moved?  Continue to move in a circle around your room and write down everything you notice.  What will make the space more organized?  What will make you more productive?  What can be changed or enhanced to make the space more enjoyable for you?  What bothers you about the space?  Depending on the size and content of your room, this could take 30 minutes or more.  Be sure to spend enough time to allow yourself to really see those things that you normally look past.  Include items that you may not be able to see visually.  For example, a junk drawer or a computer desktop that needs cleaned and organized.  Try to fill the entire sheet (i.e. 30 Observations).
  6. What is each observation costing you?  Put a check in the boxes that correspond to each item.  For example, one of the tasks I needed to complete for my home was cleaning windows.  This was costing me energy in the form of lack of enjoyment because it bothered me that the windows were dirty when I looked out towards our beautiful trees.  It was also impacting our health because the humidity in our house during the winter had caused the sills to become mildewed with the start of mold.  Lastly, it was costing us money the longer I waited to take care of the mildewed sills as this could eventually cause rotting, with the need for new windows.

Once you have worked through this exercise, you have a complete list of the tasks that could be completed in your space.  The last step above allowed you to think through the importance of each task in relation to space, time, energy, money and health.  Now, choose 20% of the tasks that are the highest priority.  If you have 30 observations, this would be 6 tasks.  Do one of these tasks in the next 30 minutes.  Then, schedule in a time(s) to complete (or delegate) the remaining 6 tasks.  Note that some of your tasks may be best coordinated with other areas of your home or office.  In my window cleaning example above, it is much more effective to clean the windows in an entire home or office at once instead of doing one room at a time.

While there are many ways to approach spring cleaning, working through this exercise for all of your rooms or spaces will help in the following ways.  First, you will have a complete list of the tasks you would like to complete.  Second, you will spend time thinking about the actual priority and need for each task.  And third, you will make sure you are spending your time on those tasks that will give you the greatest benefit.  Happy Spring and Happy Spring Cleaning!

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