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Making the Most of 2023’s Quiet Ending

The festive frenzy has faded, the carols are on mute, and even the most enthusiastic emailer has hit “pause.” The office silence is deafening - it’s the annual December lull. This, my friends, is the perfect opportunity to reclaim your space (physical and digital) and gear up for a smoother, more organized 2024.

12/27/2023

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The office is eerily quiet, emails have slowed to a trickle, and the calendar’s dotted with “out-of-office” notifications. It’s also the time of year when many CEOs pause to write posts about their company’s achievements and share gratitude for the past year.

But I’d like to write about something more productive this time and give the year a proper send-off that involves clearing some digital and physical cobwebs. I think of it as a spring cleaning for my life, with the added bonus of a shiny new year waiting on the other side.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super proud of all we’ve achieved at Blend, but I talk about that all year round. We are good people doing great work, and the future is bright. Done. Check! 

As tempting as it may be for me to snuggle into Netflix marathons during the break, I use this pause to reclaim my sanity and prepare for a fresh start in 2024. I anticipate the next year will be busier than the last, so this is a perfect opportunity to use my time wisely and transform my workspace and mindset for a more organized and productive year ahead.

Here are a few things to make the new year a little easier to digest (or at least make me feel like I have my s#!t together).

Declutter my digital domain:

  • Desktop Detox: All. Those. Screenshots. 😩 It’s time to clean house. Toss unnecessary files and screenshots, and organize folders by project or theme, ideally moving them into an organized Projects folder. I have one for Blend and one for personal projects like my family’s holiday cards.
  • Email Efficiency: Unsubscribe from email lists you never read, create automated tasks to sort specific messages automatically, and schedule time for email correspondence bursts instead of constant checking. I set my Mac only to pull new emails once every 15 minutes, and I turned off the notifications. I also gave up on inbox zero - that’s what a good search is for! I star anything important that needs my attention and try to delete the rest. 
  • File Frenzy: Tidy up your digital documents. Rename files for easy searching, organize folders logically, and consider cloud storage for seamless access from anywhere. At Blend, we rely on Google Drive and stick to a shared nomenclature, so I ensure that any project files are saved in the appropriate folder in the cloud and delete my local copies.

Simplify life, inside and out:

  • Project Prioritization: Time is ticking. Take stock of ongoing projects. What can be accomplished before the new year? What can be delegated or put on hold? Prioritize those tasks, focus on the essentials, and be realistic.
  • Meeting Madness: Look at your calendar for the rest of 2023. Are there holes where you can stop and think for once? I encourage you to block off time in your calendar for deep work and reflection each week for the new year or use this time to tackle complex projects without interruptions. I encourage the rest of our leadership team to set aside “quiet thinking time” to work on the business each week. It’s officially called a Clarity Break. I think we can all get better at prioritizing this time for ourselves.
  • Mindful Moments: Speaking of breaks, take them! Step away from the screen, take a walk, meditate, or do some light exercise. A refreshed mind is a productive mind. As we’re finishing out 2023, take a moment to reflect on the year and be grateful for another year of life.

Embrace the quiet for personal growth:

  • Read that book: Dust off that novel you’ve been meaning to read or dive into a self-improvement guide. Use this time to invest in yourself and expand your knowledge. I tend to lean towards fiction, so I balance that out by rotating between professional development books and others for entertainment only.
  • Learn a new skill: Have you always wanted to code, paint, or speak a new language? Use these quiet hours to explore new passions and start developing your skills. I’m toying with the idea of jumping back into learning Spanish. I have three years of classes behind me, but as I don’t speak it regularly, I could use a refresher. 
  • Plan for the future: Brainstorm ideas for 2024, set personal and professional goals, and create a roadmap for achieving them. This quiet time is perfect for strategic planning and visualization. Share this plan with your boss or manager. They should also want to help you achieve these things. 

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Pro Tips:

  • Next year, I am taking PTO on Cyber Monday and spending the entire day unsubscribing from everything I could care less about.
  • We have a group at Blend that takes a walk after every Collab Day lunch. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and connect with colleagues.
  • For me, a clean workspace is a clear mind. Before any daunting task, I always find myself cleaning. I may tackle the kitchen, desk, or inbox. I used to think it was procrastination, but now I know it’s a needed step towards being productive.
  • My Downloads folder has over 3,000 files in it. Does that make you feel better about the current state of your computer? Check back with me on January 2nd to make sure I haven’t drowned in all the files. See why I need to organize? This is more of a confession than a pro tip. 😅

By decluttering your digital and physical environment, prioritizing tasks, and investing in personal growth, you’ll enter 2024 feeling refreshed, organized, and ready to tackle anything. So, let’s ditch Netflix, grab a coffee, and get ready to conquer the chaos to create an organized environment and mental clarity for a fantastic new year.