Written by Sarah Yoon

Starting fresh is a wonderful feeling. You have a new characters to befriend and new stories to unfold. Energy is high, hopes soar, and you know that nothing can keep you from creating something amazing.

However, starting anew isn’t always possible. Some projects can span years, growing in complexity and demanding much more time than you had ever imagined. Though the work is worthwhile, you miss that first spark of romance. It’s quite possible to refresh your creativity; all it takes is a little bit of spring-cleaning:

Your Desk

A surprising amount of energy is sucked away by clutter, so before you even think about your mental game, start with the basics: your desk. Daily workspaces are far too easily covered in junk: old papers, bills, paper clips, stubby pencils, etc. How many of these objects are actually necessary to your work? Go minimal. Toss anything that you haven’t touched in a year and test your pens to check which ones actually work. Only keep the necessities on your desk. If you don’t use that stack of post-its every day, put it in the drawer. A clean workspace gives you space to breathe and focus.

Your Desktop

Your computer desktop deserves the same breathing space as your desk. It’s easy to let files get lost in vaguely titled folders over the years, making them difficult to access. You need good organization—not just the “I put it in a safe place and now I can’t find it” organization. To get your electronic rear in gear, start updating file and folder titles to more accurately represent the contents. You’ll end up discovering a personal shorthand that makes your titles more comprehensive and cohesive. As you organize your files, you should clear clutter on your desktop. Keep only your immediate projects out for daily access and tuck the rest away until you need them. When important files are easy to access, you can approach your work with greater focus.

Your Focus

Clean workspaces help sharpen your mental focus, but they’re only a stepping-stone toward your beautiful fresh start. Your mind can be just as cluttered as your desk. You have work, family, home, hobbies, side projects all tugging on your sleeve. On top of that, distractions abound as social media does its very best to buy your time and fragment your focus. With so many demands, reprioritizing is key. List out your responsibilities—do you have reasonable expectations for yourself? It’s easy to feel guilty about not studying that language as diligently as you promised or letting that film project drop by the wayside. Instead of keeping an Eeyore-style raincloud of guilt over your head, decide which responsibilities to keep and which to set aside for a while. Freshly organized priorities offer the freedom to focus on your project with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Want to read more? Check out some teaser prompts from Sarah Yoon’s FireStarters: “Film Adaptation” and “Interview Skills.”