I really thought adulthood would be a certain cure to procrastination.
I thought I would arrive to a place where I could inherently muster myself to a place of responsibility, never to leave any of my work undone again.
I was wrong.
It's delusional to think that things will organize themselves.
Have you ever thought this?
That even though you've neglected that pile of stuff in the garage or that immense stack of mail in your office or on the kitchen table, somehow, it will get done.
But it's not done. It's still there waiting for you. Even as you read this there's likely a stack of dirty clothes or your kids toys dominating space in your life.
You're not alone.
Purposing your way through all of the mess to reorganize your life or personal space is not as much about the organization, as it is the freedom that comes with having your life in order.
It's not just about the things, its about taking control of your life and reclaiming your space.
For me, when clutter is in the way, I tend to shut down.
It usually gets me in one of the following ways:
1. Can't find what I'm looking for.
I've had moments where I've had to go rifling through stacks of mail and papers for hours to find what I was looking for. This process has sometimes been successful, but not always. At times, I've had to ask again for the item I needed or simply had do the work again to accomplish the very same task. This is a clear waste of time and energy.
2. Can't think straight.
I recently had a friend to tell me, "I don't know why, but when I have so much stuff in my office, I just can't think straight. I don't know what to do." You wouldn't think the accumulation of stuff would consume your thoughts, but it does.
Clutter consumes our mental bandwidth. If its not the nagging thoughts of when you'll actually get it, then its the preoccupation of how you're going to sort through it all.
Dreading either of these is a serious drain on your life. Here's why: it detracts from being able to fully invest yourself in your present work and the task at hand.
Furthermore, dread is rooted in fear. Our brains often register the outlook on an overbearing task as a type of pain.
Clutter robs us of our purpose and efforts in the here-and-now.
Clutter will claim your life if you let it.
But it doesn't have to.
The peace of mind, the focus, and the freedom desired from it are a result of being proactive against it.
In order to counteract the accumulation in my life, I've developed a few small habits that help keep it to a minimum.
When it comes to killing the clutter, there are questions I've come to ask myself that help me deliberate on what to do with all of my stuff.
The major question here is, what is essential?
1. Personal Clutter
Do I Really Need This? Am I Really Going to Use This? Can I Get by Without This?
Is this Essential to My Life?
Any one or variation of these types of questions will help in determining what to do with what you have.
When going through clothes, papers, or personal items that bear no real significant value, if it hasn't been used, worn, or essential in my life in the past year, then it's time to get rid of it.
Three Options to Getting Rid of It:
• Throw It Away
Just toss it. Congratulations, it's out of your life.
• Give It Away
Somebody might want it, find out who. A quick picture post on social media or Craigslist should do the trick.
• Sell It
If you really need a return to part with it, then listing your item(s) on Craigslist, eBay, or social media, will likely help you to be rid of it real soon. Wanna go the distance? Have a garage sale. If it doesn't sell, part with it anyway.
2. Business & Intellectual Clutter
Do you have a system or methodology in getting your work done? If not, you should.
Find a system that works well for you and stick with it.
Protocol is a stale word, but when there's a good system in place, you'll find your work flow more fluid and that more gets accomplished for the task at hand.
When I was a school teacher, I was only allotted a certain amount of planning time, so I had to really zone in when it was time for lesson prep or grading. Now, as a designer and blogger, I still, for the most part, find the same things wanting to get in the way: piling emails, sticky notes everywhere, conflicting calendar dates, and overlapping deadlines.
Here's my plan of attack.
It gets scary when these pile up. Set 1 or 2 specific times a day where you check these. Productive Inbox is a great resource that I am now using and highly recommend. It has a 30-Day Free Trial, too.
• Sticky Notes
These are my steady reminders for what I need to get done by the end of the day or the end of the week. I try not to list more than 3 total "To-Do" Items for each day. Visually, I will often use different colors and sizes, associating color and size with a different project and it's level of importance. (P.S. When the project is over, throw those notes away and reset).
• Calendar Dates and Deadlines
I know its old school, but I still write my events on a proper wall calendar. Yes, I input important dates and reminders on my iCalendar as well, but the tangibility of dates and deadlines on paper make it feel more real to me. Urgent Deadlines are always written in red ink. When it's crunch time, I need these markings staring me back at me. They remind me of the weight of my actions and responsibilities from moment-to-moment.
I need to make this jump. I don't presently use Evernote, so I can't say much about it. However, since so many individuals and business professionals I know choose live by it, I thought it worth mentioning.
Ideas and projects are also vital to move forward in your work, but what about that idea you've been picking at for a few months now? What about that project you were certain you'd have finished by now, but haven't even begun.
If I can't get real traction on an idea within a months time, I shelf it. Literally and mentally, I set it aside for a later time.
In most cases, it's really hard to work on more than 3 projects at once. At times, even this is pushing it.
When I need to get work done, I block out the distractions through the following methods:
- Set my phone to airplane mode. No texts. No calls. No emails.
- Use the "2 Minute Rule" to QuickStart my workflow.
3. Spiritual Clutter
Its easy to brush this one aside. After all, checking in at church or a small group can seem like its enough.
I have a daily ritual that helps me to start the morning well.
Before my kids go to bed, I often read them a Bible story, then we say our evening prayers.
When I wake up, before even getting up, I grab my phone or Bible and I read it.
I read a chapter of Proverbs each day and a chapter of my one other book (currently, it happens to be the Book of Acts).
Through the day, I pause to pray when something really starts to consume my thought life.
Some might say this is not a necessity, but if you wish to remain spiritually charged and strong, then you can't afford to forego this practice.
When excess thoughts and worries begin to preoccupy my mind, I know I'm getting overwhelmed and that I need to pray.
When I begin to say or think things that seem contrary to what God says or what His word says about me, then I know I need to remind myself of what He says by spending time in the Bible.
As often as I've maintained this practice, I find that the cares of this world affect my emotional, mental, and spiritual state far less.
I also find myself filled with the sensibility and wisdom to speak into the lives of others when the opportunity presents itself.
This is my greatest safeguard and perhaps, the most important practice of all.
What about you? Do you have a system in play to counteract the clutter in your life?
If not, it's time to get your guard up.
The acquisition of stuff minus the sensibility to manage it, means it's certain to dominate us. (Tweet this)
These are all suggestions that you could use. If you have any methods of your own, please share them in the comments below. I'd love to hear how your taking back the space in your life.
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