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How Living Clutter-free Will Make You a Better Decision Maker

How Living Clutter-free Will Make You a Better Decision Maker
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With every choice comes a decision, and from the moment you wake up to when your head hits the pillow each night, you are faced with endless choices.

When life is stressful, plates are overflowing, and your brain, living space and work space are cluttered, making a decision (even a simple one) can seem overwhelming. So what do you do? You make the decision not to make a decision.

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Things you say to avoid making a decision.

  • “I’ll look at it again tomorrow.” Putting off your decision is a choice you make that will impact your happiness on a daily basis. When you don’t take action, you direct your attention to the what ifs instead of moving forward. “What ifs” are a waste of time and you don’t have time to waste.
  • “Let’s wait and see.” Usually, ‘wait and see’ means ‘no thank you’ or ‘never gonna happen,’ but because you want to make everyone happy, you avoid the conversation. Be kind to yourself and others by being honest about your decision in a timely matter.
  • “You decide.” When you say this, you decide to give your decision away. This almost always is a result of people pleasing or option paralysis. Even with small decisions like where to meet for lunch or what color to paint the kitchen, giving your decision away can make you feel less connected and engaged.

If you’ve ever said any of those things, it’s time to clear the clutter for better decision-making. When you simplify your life and eliminate the things that aren’t actively adding value, you make time and space to make better decisions more quickly. If you’ve ever sat with a decision for very long, you know how painful indecision can be.

Three ways living clutter-free will make you a better decision maker

1. Know what you want. When your thoughts are ping-ponging from thing to thing and you are preoccupied with stuff that doesn’t really matter, you don’t have the mental clarity to identify what you want most. That goes for what you want most for lunch, for the moment and in your life. By removing the clutter, you give the most important things a chance to rise to the surface.

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Instead of organizing your stuff, shuffling papers, or cleaning your desk as a means of clearing your head before you make a decision, keep less. Life is distracting enough without adding drawers of stuff, piles of paper, and boxes stored in your closet.

2. Trust your gut. A pro/con list never hurts, but when you get too analytical, you can find reasons to support any decision. Analyze, but not to the point that you dismiss what your gut and heart know to be the best choice. Learning to trust your gut comes with practice and attention.

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Losing the clutter frees up time for you to give your gut the attention it deserves. If you don’t take the time to listen to what you know to be true, even before you know why, you are cheating yourself.

3. Embrace uncertainty. When you have less to lose, uncertainty is easier to grasp. Mitigate risk by trimming the fat (clutter) in your life and business so you can make decisions and know that things will be ok even if they don’t go as planned.

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There is more than physical clutter that gets in the way of making decisions. Things like anxiety (fear), hesitation (fear), worrying about what people will think (fear), and fear of making a bad a decision (fear) get in the way too, but once the clutter is gone, you will have the mental clarity to see your indecision for what it is.

Clear the clutter and admit that not making a decision is one of the worst decisions you can make. Those two actions will make you more confident in your decision-making and happier with the choices you make.

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More by this author

Courtney Carver

Courtney Carver is a speaker, author, productivity expert and founder of Be More with Less.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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