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7 Ways to Clear the Clutter and Find your Life

7 Ways to Clear the Clutter and Find your Life
    Photo credit: oneonethreefour (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    Is clutter taking over your life?

    Maybe it is and you don’t even realize it. As a personal productivity coach I work with clients helping them organize their lives to work more efficiently and achieve more of what they want from life.

    On one occasion I was working with a business owner who was experiencing a lot of stress and feeling very overwhelmed. We started by clearing her office of clutter. While we sifted through the mountains of paperwork and the many notebooks on her desk, she found a check for 1,800 euro that she had forgotten to cash. Her life was so disorganized and out of control that she did not miss that check.

    If you can relate to my client and have had a similar experience, it may be time to take back the control. Clearing the clutter can be a clever place to start.

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    1. Start small

    Just like creating new habits the trick is to start small. Don’t try to tackle too much all at once; it usually ends in frustration, dissatisfaction and ultimate abandon. Choose a small area or one drawer to get started and schedule time to complete the task. It usually works better to schedule time rather than have a physical plan because often the de-cluttering takes longer than expected. If you spend hours trying to de-clutter a space to not achieve it can turn the expedition into a negative experience.

    2. Make sure everything has a place

    One of the reasons we allow clutter to accumulate is because we don’t know where to put it. We move things around from surface to surface not quite knowing what to do with them. Create a place for everything and if necessary go out and buy more storage containers. But be careful, the more storage containers you have the more you will fill.

    3. One in two out

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    You have probably heard of this tactic before. Every time you buy something new, throw out or give away two things, this will ensure the quantity of items you own decreases over time rather than the gradual creep of belongings. It also prevents you from buying unnecessary things as you know you will have to throw out some possessions when you get home.

    4. Become a charity King or Queen

    Know that every time you donate clothes, books or toys to a charity shop you are helping people. Rather than let things clutter up your drawers they could be doing good in the world. Separating yourself from your belongings becomes easier if you are doing it for a purpose.

    5. Remember objects don’t define the person

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    For years I kept a snowboard in the corner of my sitting room as it represented the person I wanted to be — bold and carefree. I live in a country that doesn’t have mountains with snow. I wasn’t very good at the sport and at best I could go snowboarding once a year. Sounds ridiculous when you look at it objectively, but for me it represented a part of my life I didn’t want to let go of. Selling my snowboarding gear was a liberating experience. I felt the moment I let it go out the door I matured. I am who I am and don’t need an object to express my personality.

    6. Create rituals to prevent clutter creep

    If you manage to de-clutter and get things under control, how are you going to prevent the clutter from coming back into your life?

    Create rituals. Do the washing up straight after dinner, get the children to tidy their toys before bed, tidy up time comes before lunch every day. By creating rituals for certain events they become so much a part of your everyday life they don’t feel like a hassle. These little rituals just like brushing your teeth before bed become semi-automated and help to keep your life under control.

    7. Music and celebration

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    Turn on your favorite music and get started. Music can uplift and inspire, it can turn the most mundane task into something enjoyable. When you have finished acknowledge your achievements and reward yourself, something you should do with all areas of your life. Great things deserve recognition and celebration. Treat yourself and admire your hard work.

    If you have any more de-clutter tips I would love to hear them

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    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity

    Are you usually punctual or late? Do you finish things within the time you stipulate? Do you hand in your reports/work on time? Are you able to accomplish what you want to do before deadlines? Are you a good time manager?

    If your answer is “no” to any of the questions above, that means you’re not managing your time as well as you want. Here are 20 time management tips to help you manage time better:

    1. Create a daily plan

    Plan your day before it unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you sleep. The plan gives you a good overview of how the day will pan out. That way, you don’t get caught off guard. Your job for the day is to stick to the plan as best as possible.

    2. Peg a time limit to each task

    Be clear that you need to finish X task by 10am, Y task by 3pm, and Z item by 5:30pm. This prevents your work from dragging on and eating into time reserved for other activities.

    3. Use a calendar

    Having a calendar is the most fundamental step to managing your daily activities. If you use outlook or lotus notes, calendar come as part of your mailing software.

    Google Calendar is great – I use it. It’s even better if you can sync it to your mobile phone and other hardwares you use – that way, you can access your schedule no matter where you are.

    Here’s more tips about how to use calendar for better time management: How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space

    4. Use an organizer

    An organizer helps you to be on top of everything in your life. It’s your central tool to organize information, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

    Check out these Top 15 Time Management Apps and Tools and pick the ones that fit your needs.

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    5. Know your deadlines

    When do you need to finish your tasks? Mark the deadlines out clearly in your calendar and organizer so you know when you need to finish them.

    But make sure you don’t make these 10 Common Mistakes When Setting Deadlines.

    6. Learn to say “No”

    Don’t take on more than you can handle. For the distractions that come in when you’re doing other things, give a firm no. Or defer it to a later period.

    Leo Babauta, the founder of Zen Habits has some great insights on how to say no: The Gentle Art of Saying No

    7. Target to be early

    When you target to be on time, you’ll either be on time or late. Most of the times you’ll be late. However, if you target to be early, you’ll most likely be on time.

    For appointments, strive to be early. For your deadlines, submit them earlier than required.

    Learn from these tips about how to prepare yourself to be early, instead of just in time.

    8. Time box your activities

    This means restricting your work to X amount of time. Why time boxing is good for you? Here’re 10 reasons why you should start time-boxing.

    You can also read more about how to do time boxing here: #5 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity.

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    9. Have a clock visibly placed before you

    Sometimes we are so engrossed in our work that we lose track of time. Having a huge clock in front of you will keep you aware of the time at the moment.

    10. Set reminders 15 minutes before

    Most calendars have a reminder function. If you have an important meeting to attend, set that alarm 15 minutes before.

    Find out more here about how reminders help you remember everything.

    11. Focus

    Are you multi-tasking so much that you’re just not getting anything done? If so, focus on just one key task at one time. Multitasking is bad for you.

    Close off all the applications you aren’t using. Close off the tabs in your browser that are taking away your attention. Focus solely on what you’re doing. You’ll be more efficient that way.

    Lifehack’s CEO has written a definitive guide on how to focus, learn the tips: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    12. Block out distractions

    What’s distracting you in your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

    I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times when I log on is when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise it gets very distracting.

    When I’m doing important work, I also switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

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    Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

    13. Track your time spent

    Egg Timer is a simple online countdown timer. You key in the amount of time you want it to track (example: “30 minutes”, “1 hour”) and it’ll count down in the background. When the time is up,the timer will beep. Great way to be aware of your time spent.

    But besides Egg Timer, you can find more time tracking apps here and pick one that fits yourself the best.

    14. Don’t fuss about unimportant details

    You’re never get everything done in exactly the way you want. Trying to do so is being ineffective.

    Trying to be perfect does you more harm than good, learn here about how perfectionism kills your productivity and how to ditch the perfectionism mindset.

    15. Prioritize

    Since you can’t do everything, learn to prioritize the important and let go of the rest.

    Apply the 80/20 principle which is a key principle in prioritization. You can also take up this technique to prioritize everything on your plate: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    16. Delegate

    If there are things that can be better done by others or things that are not so important, consider delegating. This takes a load off and you can focus on the important tasks.

    When you delegate some of your work, you free up your time and achieve more. Learn about how to effectively delegate works in this guide: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

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    17. Batch similar tasks together

    For related work, batch them together.

    For example, my work can be categorized into these core groups:

    1. writing (articles, my upcoming book)
    2. coaching
    3. workshop development
    4. business development
    5. administrative

    I batch all the related tasks together so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

    18. Eliminate your time wasters

    What takes your time away your work? Facebook? Twitter? Email checking? Stop checking them so often.

    One thing you can do is make it hard to check them – remove them from your browser quick links / bookmarks and stuff them in a hard to access bookmarks folder. Replace your browser bookmarks with important work-related sites.

    While you’ll still checking FB/Twitter no doubt, you’ll find it’s a lower frequency than before.

    19. Cut off when you need to

    The number one reason why things overrun is because you don’t cut off when you have to.

    Don’t be afraid to intercept in meetings or draw a line to cut-off. Otherwise, there’s never going to be an end and you’ll just eat into the time for later.

    20. Leave buffer time in-between

    Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in between each tasks. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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