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How to Become Clutter-Free for Greater Happiness and Productivity

How to Become Clutter-Free for Greater Happiness and Productivity

    If an alien nation were to look down on Earth at this moment in time they really would think us a dumb race. They might say something like:

    “They buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t like.”

    But even if it’s not about impressing others, most of us have too much stuff and we know that the accumulation of goods won’t make us happier — yet we continue to consume. The aliens would also notice how busy the inhabitants of this planet are and how they work incessantly a lot of the time doing work that doesn’t need to be done. And if they asked us we would acknowledge that we work too much, knowing that it can lead to a high percentage of us feeling stress or anxiety (1.5 million people in the U.S. alone having heart attacks each year). But we continue to work longer hours. We would also tell them that we know simplicity can lead to greater happiness and wellness, yet we are prone to staring blindly at facts and doing nothing about them.

    So just in case some alien race is watching, don’t you think we should simplify our lives? Maybe we could also benefit from the other advantages. By making a commitment now to reduce, eliminate, and set yourself free this year, you will feel the liberation and the lightness as you rid your life of the physical and mental baggage that has being weighing you down. Clutter is stagnant energy and by removing it from your life you will free up time and space for the more important things in life.

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    How to Get Started

    Step by step and room by room, you can start to eliminate the unnecessary in your life. The books you have read but hold onto, the clothes that are too small but sit in your cupboard. The stuff that that lies on your kitchen table or clutters up your living room. Wouldn’t it be nice to be rid of it?

    Organizational expert Barbara Hemphill calls clutter “postponed decisions”. So start making some decisions. Get bags or boxes — one for recycling, one for the charity shop, one for the trash and one for the yet to be decided.

    Start with one area of your house or office, choose a drawer, a counter space or shelf. Don’t try to do it altogether or you may get discouraged and leave your house looking worse than before. If you have a lot to do, try setting yourself a time deadline rather than a space deadline. if you can commit to de-cluttering for an hour or two, you will be satisfied with what you have achieved if you stuck with it for that time period.

    For each object you pick up ask yourself the following questions:

    • “Do I need this?”
    • “Have I used in in the past 6 months?” (12 months for seasonal clothes or sporting equipment)
    • “Would it help someone else more than me?”
    • “Can I easily get it again if I dispose of it?”

    These questions should help you make a decision. If you end up with a box of things that you can’t decide what to do with or you are not ready to dispose of, keep them in this box in storage. After six months, go back to the box — and if you haven’t used anything from the box in that time you can pass them on to someone who may be able to use them.

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    Once you have eliminated all that is unnecessary, the next step is to make sure all that is left is organized and accessible when you need to get at it.

    Organizing the Rest

    The correct storage is important for your home or office; you need to decide where everything should go and whether it is necessary to get more storage solutions to accommodate your possessions. If possible, try to use existing solutions, as I find the more storage I have the more I will fill.

    Regardless of how few papers you need to keep, you will need a filing system. I don’t have enough papers at home to merit a filing cabinet, so I use a filing box. It holds about 40 hanging folders, enough to keep all my home paperwork — items such as birth certificates, contracts and certificates are all filed away neatly. Inside each hanging folder I have a manila folder which has been labelled clearly with a labeller. This means that when I go to look for a folder I can clearly see it and don’t waste any time searching.

    Once you have a place for everything and everything in its place, the way to keep it organized is to commit to cleaning as you go…and try to get everyone who lives in your house on board.

    “If everyone swept in front of their own door, the world would be a much cleaner place” – Mother Theresa

    De-cluttering the Mind

    To de-clutter the mind is to empty it of all the unnecessary thoughts that prevent you from living a happy, calm and stress-free life. The mind can be a busy place as it stores our commitments, responsibilities, hopes, dreams and plans along with the constant input that comes its way as we pass through our day.

    A mind should not be a place of clutter, but a place of calm and peace. Below are a number of ways that can help you to clear your mind and free it from the constant noise and clutter that resides there.

    1. Write it all down
    Get out a piece of paper and write down everything you need to do, from organizing a children’s party to starting a new project at work. Write down your chores, your duties and your responsibilities. Write down your plans for articles, books and businesses. This act will help to clear the mind and keep you from using it as a reminder system.

    2. Get Organized
    Just like clearing the physical clutter is not enough to complete the task, clearing the mind also needs an organisation phase to help completely free your mind from the responsibility of remembering. Once you have it all written down, you must plan and schedule all that needs to be done. Having a system to organize your tasks and projects can help to eliminate stress and induce a sense of peace and calm

    3. Focus on the essential
    If you identify the most important things in your life, such as your main goals and intentions, it will make it easier for you to identify the things that are not important — the things that clog your mind and clutter your space. Once you have identified and start to focus on the essential, the rest will fade into insignificance.

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    4. Reduce information consumption
    Where possible, reduce the amount of time you spend watching television, listening to radio and reading newspapers. Too much negative news can have a negative effect on your mind. Television is not as relaxing as people think; your mind is very active while doing it and it will remain active for a long time after watching. In particular, watching television reduces the quality of your sleep if you watch it before bedtime.

    5. Journal
    Journaling can help to quieten the mind. By writing down all your thoughts, worries, and dreams you take some of the pressure away from the mind. A lot of people journal before sleeping as this can free up their minds from these worries and stresses, allowing for a more peaceful sleep.

    4. Spend time in nature
    Nature can be a great detox for both body and mind. A fresh breath can clear out stagnant or negative energy held in the body, and walking in nature has grounding and purifying effects. Activity outdoors can also be a great way to be mindful shifting your thoughts from your worries to the present moment.

    5. Meditate
    Meditation, just like mindfulness, can help to relax the constant chatter of the mind. Stress and worry are caused by focusing too much attention on future negative outcomes. The more we can focus our mind on the present moment the happier and more peaceful we will become.

    If you follow these steps to de-clutter your physical and mental space, you will find greater peace and happiness. What you will also achieve is the ability to focus more intently on the essential and become more efficient and productive with both your time and space.

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    Oh, and you’ll likely impress the aliens a bit too.

    (Photo credit: Bad Day at Work via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on September 28, 2020

    How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

    How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals

    There’s no denying that goals are necessary. After all, they give life meaning and purpose. However, goals don’t simply achieve themselves—you need to write an action plan to help you reach your goals.

    With an action plan, you’ll have a clear idea of how to get where you want to go, what it will take to get there, and how you’ll find the motivation to keep driving forward. Without creating a plan, things have a way of not working out as you waver and get distracted.

    With that in mind, here’s how you can set goals and action plans that will help you achieve any personal goal you’ve set.

    1. Determine Your “Why”

    Here’s a quick experiment for you to try right now: Reflect on the goals you’ve set before. Now, think about the goals you reached and those you didn’t. Hopefully, you’ll notice a common theme here.

    The goals you were successful in achieving had a purpose. Those goals you failed to accomplish did not. In other words, you knew why you put these goals in place, which motivated you to follow through.

    Simon Sinek, author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Finding Purpose for You and Your Team, explains:

    “Once you understand your WHY, you’ll be able to clearly articulate what makes you feel fulfilled and to better understand what drives your behavior when you’re at your natural best. When you can do that, you’ll have a point of reference for everything you do going forward.”

    That, in turn, enables better decision-making and clearer choices.

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    I’ll share with you a recent example of this in my life. Earlier this year, I decided to make my health a bigger priority, specifically losing weight. I set this goal because it gave me more energy at work, improved my sleep, and helped me be a better father—I really didn’t care for all that wheezing every time I played with my kids.

    Those factors all gave me a long-term purpose, not a superficial short-term goal like wanting to look good for an event.

    Before you start creating an action plan, think about why you’re setting a new goal. Doing so will guide you forward on this journey and give you a North Star to point to when things get hard (and they inevitably will).

    2. Write Down Your Goal

    If you really want to know how to create an action plan for goals, it’s time to get your goals out of your head and onto a piece of paper. While you can also do this electronically through an app, research has found that you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goal if it’s written down[1].

    This is especially true for business owners. If they don’t schedule their time, it’ll be scheduled for them.[2]

    When you physically write down a goal, you’re accessing the left side of the brain, which is the literal, logical side. As a result, this communicates to your brain that this is something you seriously want to do.

    3. Set a SMART Goal

    A SMART goal pulls on a popular system in business management[3]. That’s because it ensures the goal you’ve set is both realistic and achievable. It can also be used as a reference to guide you through your action plan.

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    Use SMART goals to create a goal action plan.

       

      By establishing a SMART goal, you can begin to brainstorm the steps, tasks, and tools you’ll need to make your actions effective.

      • Specific: You need to have specific ideas about what you want to accomplish. To get started, answer the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
      • Measurable: To make sure you’re meeting the goal, establish tangible metrics to measure your progress. Identify how you’ll collect the data.
      • Attainable: Think about the tools or skills needed to reach your goal. If you don’t possess them, figure out how you can attain them.
      • Relevant: Why does the goal matter to you? Does it align with other goals? These types of questions can help you determine the goal’s true objective — and whether it’s worth pursuing.
      • Time-bound: Whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly target, deadlines can motivate us to take action sooner than later.

      Learn more about setting a SMRT goal here: How to Set SMART Goal to Make Lasting Changes in Life

      4. Take One Step at a Time

      Have you ever taken a road trip? You most likely had to use a map to navigate from Point A to Point B. The same idea can be applied to an action plan.

      Like a map, your action plan needs to include step-by-step instructions on how you’ll reach your goal. In other words, these are mini goals that help you get where you need to go.

      For example, if you wanted to lose weight, you’d consider smaller factors like calories consumed and burned, minutes exercised, number of steps walked, and quality of sleep. Each plays a role in weight loss.

      This may seem like a lot of work upfront, but it makes your action plan seem less overwhelming and more manageable. Most importantly, it helps you determine the specific actions you need to take at each stage.

      5. Order Your Tasks by Priority

      With your action steps figured out, you’ll next want to review your list and place your tasks in the order that makes the most sense. This way, you’re kicking things off with the most important step to make the biggest impact, which will ultimately save time.

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      For example, if you have a sedentary job and want to lose weight, the first step should be becoming even a little more active. From there, you can add more time to your workout plan.

      The next step could be changing your diet, like having a salad before dinner to avoid overeating, or replacing soda with sparkling water.

      Learn these tips to prioritize better: How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      6. Schedule Your Tasks

      Setting a deadline for your goal is a must; it prevents you from delaying the start of your action plan. The key, however, is to be realistic. It’s highly unlikely, for example, that you’ll lose 20 pounds within two weeks. It’s even less likely that you’ll keep it off.

      What’s more, you should also assign tasks a start and end date for each action step you’ve created, as well as a timeline for when you’ll complete specific tasks. Adding them to your schedule ensures that you stay focused on these tasks when they need to happen, not letting anything else distract you.

      For example, if you schedule gym time, you won’t plan anything else during that time frame.

      Beware the temptation to double-book yourself—some activities truly can be combined, like a run while talking to a friend, but some can’t. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you can both write and catch up on Netflix simultaneously.

      While you can use a paper calendar or planner, an online calendar may be a better option. You can use it to set deadlines or reminders for when each step needs to be taken, and it can be shared with other people who need to be in the know (like your running buddy or your mentor).

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      7. Stay on Track With Healthy Habits

      Without healthy habits, it’s going to be even more challenging to reach your goal. You could hit the gym five days a week, but if you’re grabbing burgers for lunch every day, you’re undoing all your hard work.

      Let’s say your goal is more career-oriented, like becoming a better public speaker. If you practice your speeches at Toastmasters meetings but avoid situations where you’ll need to be unrehearsed—like networking gatherings or community meetings—you’re not helping yourself.

      You have to think about what will help transform you into the person you want to be, not just what’s easiest or most comfortable.

      8. Check off Items as You Go

      You may think you’ve spent a lot of time creating lists. Not only do they help make your goals a reality, but lists also keep your action plan organized, create urgency, and help track your progress. Because lists provide structure, they reduce anxiety.

      There’s something else special about lists of tasks completed. When you cross off a task in your action plan, your brain releases dopamine[4]. This reward makes you feel good, and you’ll want to repeat this feeling.

      If you crossed out on your calendar the days you went to the gym, you’d want to keep experiencing the satisfaction of each bold “X.” That means more motivation to go the gym consistently.

      9. Review and Reset as Necessary

      Achieving any personal goal is a process. Although it would be great if you could reach a goal overnight, it takes time. Along the way, you may experience setbacks. Instead of getting frustrated and giving up, schedule frequent reviews—daily, weekly, or monthly—to see how you’re progressing.

      If you aren’t where you’d hoped to be, you may need to alter your action plan. Rework it so you’re able to reach the goal you’ve set.

      The Bottom Line

      When you want to learn how to set goals and action plans—whether you want to lose weight, learn a new skill, or make more money—you need to create a realistic plan to get you there. It will guide you in establishing realistic steps and time frames to achieve your goal. Best of all, it will keep you on track when you stumble, and we all do.

      More on Goal Action Plans

      Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

      Reference

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