Spring cleaning the office April 10, 2012Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices.
When was the last time you cleaned in your office – I mean *really* cleaned it? If you’re like me it was probably when you moved in, but I bet it was at least several years ago. Why not set aside a day in the next week or so and do a thorough cleaning of the office? Since it’s now officially spring and the windows will soon be thrown open, now is the perfect opportunity to spring clean your work area, which can make you more efficient and productive, and even healthier.
The first step is to dedicate a day and time for your spring cleaning. The most common reason cleaning is put off is our daily interruptions. We have every intention of going through those files, and then the phone rings with a rush job or an email arrives in your inbox that needs to be answered immediately. If you can dedicate a specific day or time for cleaning, you’re more likely to actually do it. Pick a day that is typically quieter (in my case Fridays are usually good times) or set aside a weekend by not accepting any weekend work. Push yourself to get everything done and then, on your designated day, put on some good music, roll up your sleeves, and get to it.
Be sure to break up your tasks so you don’t get overwhelmed and quit. You’ve got to cut the mountain of tasks down to size to make it surmountable. Make a list of what your spring cleaning will entail: organizing and weeding out your paper files, combing through your email inbox, sifting through the papers and invoices on your desk, cleaning the insides and outsides of your computer and peripherals, etc. Decide what needs to be done, then pick one or two projects to tackle each day or each time you need a break from your regular work. By breaking things up, you might not feel so overwhelmed, and you’ll have a sense of completion each time you conquer one item on your list.
In my case, my first step was to go through the piles of papers and magazines that accumulated and file them away or recycle them. You might be surprised by what you find during your clean up. When I cleaned my office last week I found the two replacement tickets for the musicals Million Dollar Quartet and La Cage aux Folles when I couldn’t go on my assigned days for my Broadway subscription. I had torn my office apart looking for them at the time and ended up not going because I couldn’t find the tickets. Other people may find uncashed checks from clients or unused gift certificates. Challenge yourself to go through your piles and find some lost treasure.
Once the surfaces are cleared, grab that surface cleanser and give your desk, bookcases, shelves, etc. a good scrub. Clean your monitor using the appropriate cleaning agent. Spraying Windex on a paper towel can clean up your CRT, but lint-free wipes are usually a better choice. If you have an LCD screen, steer clear of ammonia-based cleaners. Instead, use a soft cloth dampened with plain water. Just make sure the cloth isn’t too wet. Next wipe down the keyboard, microphones, lamps, phone headsets, etc. with a sanitizing disinfectant. You might want to keep a tub of wipes on the desk next to you so you can wipe these things down more often in the future. This will cut down on the germs you are exposed to on a daily basis. If you have a window in your office, spray some Windex on the windows and let the sun shine in.
Now let’s turn our attention to our computers. Computers have moving parts such as fans on their CPUs, power supplies, video cards and, in some cases, on the case itself. Each fan is important for the smooth operation of the computer because they keep the system cool. If the parts overheat it could damage your computer. If you have a desktop computer you need to occasionally make sure the fans are running unimpeded – especially if you have pets or smoke in your office. Unplug the computer from the power supply so you don’t electrocute yourself or short out the motherboard, open up the case and blow out the dust bunnies. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner. Vacuums can generate static electricity, which can kill your computer. You need to use compressed air, which you can buy at any office supply store. If you are using compressed air or a compressor, give it a test spray of air first because sometimes they can collect moisture and spray water onto your computer, which is something we definitely don’t want. Place a pen or pencil in between the fan blades to prevent it from spinning and blast the dust away from the fan blades. Next, you will need to get the dust out from the computers CPU heat sink just below the CPU fan. A good blast from a low angle facing towards the back of the case should get most of the dust out from in between the aluminum grills. Be sure to run the vacuum cleaner in the office after you’ve done this – or take the computer outside or to your garage to avoid dust being blown around.
OK, now that that is done, you should clean up your files on the computer. Remove any unwanted programs or programs you no longer need by going to Start->Control Panel->Programs or Add/Remove Programs, then remove the unwanted programs. Delete old e-mails from your e-mail inbox. Archive jobs that have been delivered. You also don’t need a ton of links on your desktop, because it just slows the system down. Delete any unneeded links.
This ensures that your computer is running at tip-top shape. I like to occasionally run a program called CCleaner on my computer. It removes cookies and temporary Internet files as well as dead links and other detritus that can slow your computer down. If your computer is running particularly slow you may want to clean up the Registry as well, but don’t clean up the Registry if you don’t know what you are doing! One option is to visit a well-trusted computer magazine website (I recommend something like CNET or PC Magazine) and search for step-by-step instructions on how to do this. However, if you don’t have the slightest clue about the structure of your computer and its files you may want to hire someone to do this. And whatever you do, always back up your system before doing this.
If you don’t want to buy a special program like CCleaner you can run a complete disk cleanup using the system tools on your computer. After clicking on “Start,” move your cursor to “All Programs” then up to “Accessories” and then “System Tools.” Click on “Disk Cleanup” and then click the “More Options” tab at the top of the page, and select all three of the following: “Windows Components,” “Installed Programs,” and “System Restore”. Clean up all three by clicking on their respective tabs. You may want to delete all but your most recent system restore point, as you probably don’t need the others.
You will also want to remove adware, malware, and spyware. Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package that automatically renders advertisements. This may be in the form of a pop-up, but they may also be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. Adware, by itself, is harmless; however, some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keylogger programs and other privacy-invasive software. These programs may be installed by websites, with programs from unknown developers or through a Trojan horse through your e-mail. I use a combination of Lavasoft AdAware and Spybot Search & Destroy.
Once the unused files and programs are purged you will want to defragment your system. Defragmenting your computer moves all your files to where they are supposed to be. Again, you can find the Disk Defragmenter tool under Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools. You may want to download an independent defragmenter (such as Defraggler by Piriform). It is small, concise, and more powerful, than the one distributed with Windows. But I use the Windows Disk Defragmenter, and it’s perfectly sufficient.
Once your computer is ship-shape and exactly how you want it, then go to Start->All Programs->Accessories->System Tools, then System Restore. Create a restore point, and restore it back to that point whenever your computer is running poorly. Once you do all this, your system will be running faster and you will feel lightened by the burden of a messy office. Happy Spring!