Advertising
Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

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

    (Photo credit: Bad Day at Work via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits) So You Think You Can Multitask? Think Again. Photo credit: oneonethreefour (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 7 Ways to Clear the Clutter and Find your Life How The Matrix Will Help Make 2012 Your Best Year Yet After I Started Doing Morning Exercise, Life Is Getting Better…

    Trending in Productivity

    1Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boosts Productivity 10X More with Focus 2How to Be Productive: 11 Ways to Be Productive and Happy at Once 3Top 10 Productivity Tips to Achieve More and Create Peace of Mind 4How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster 5How to Be More Productive: 4 Tiny Tweaks That Will 10x Your Productivity

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boosts Productivity 10X More with Focus

    Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boosts Productivity 10X More with Focus

    There’s a dark side to the conveniences of the Digital Age. With smartphones that function like handheld computers, it has become increasingly difficult to leave our work behind. Sometimes it seems like we’re expected to be accessible 24/7.

    How often are you ever focused on just one thing? Most of us try to meet these demands by multi-tasking.

    Many of us have bought into the myth that we can achieve more through multi-tasking. In this article, I’ll show you how you can accomplish more work in less time. Spoiler alert: multi-tasking is not the answer.

    Why is multitasking a myth?

    The term “multi-tasking” was originally used to describe how microprocessors in computers work. Machines multitask, but people cannot.

    Despite our inability to simultaneously perform two tasks at once, many people believe they are excellent multi-taskers.

    You can probably imagine plenty of times when you do several things at once. Maybe you talk on the phone while you’re cooking or respond to emails during your commute.

    Consider the amount of attention that each of these tasks requires. Chances are, at least one of the two tasks in question is simple enough to be carried out on autopilot.

    We’re okay at simultaneously performing simple tasks, but what if you were trying to perform two complex tasks? Can you really work on your presentation and watch a movie at the same time? It can be fun to try to watch TV while you work, but you may be unintentionally making your work more difficult and time-consuming.

    Your brain on multi-tasking

    Your brain wasn’t designed to multi-tasking. To compensate, it will switch from task to task. Your focus turns to whatever task seems more urgent. The other task falls into the background until you realize you’ve been neglecting it.

    When you’re bouncing back and forth like this, an area of the brain known as Broadmann’s Area 10 activates. Located in your fronto-polar prefrontal cortex at the very front of the brain, this area controls your ability to shift focus. People who think they are excellent multitaskers are really just putting Broadmann’s Area 10 to work.

    Advertising

    But I can juggle multiple tasks!

    You are capable of taking in information with your eyes while doing other things efficiently. Scientifically speaking, making use of your vision is the only thing you can truly do while doing something else.

    For everything else, you’re serial tasking. This constant refocusing can be exhausting, and it prevents us from giving our work the deep attention it deserves.

    Think about how much longer it takes to do something when you have to keep reminding yourself to focus.

    Why multitasking is failing you

    Multitasking does more bad than good to your productivity, here’re 4 reasons why you should stop multitasking:

    Multitasking wastes your time.

    You lose time when you interrupt yourself. People lose an average of 2.1 hours per day getting themselves back on track when they switch between tasks.

    In fact, some studies suggest that doing multiple things at once decreases your productivity by as much as 40%. That’s a significant loss in efficiency. You wouldn’t want your surgeon to be 40% less productive while you’re on the operating table, would you?

    It makes you dumber.

    A distracted brain performs a full 10 IQ points lower than a focused brain. You’ll also be more forgetful, slower at completing tasks, and more likely to make mistakes.

    You’ll have to work harder to fix your mistakes. If you miss an important detail, you could risk injury or fail to complete the task properly.

    This is an emotional response.

    There’s so much data suggesting that multitasking is ineffective but people insist that they can multitask.

    Advertising

    Feeling productive fulfills an emotional need. We want to feel like we’re accomplishing something. Why accomplish just one item on the to-do list when you can check off two or three?

    It’ll wear you out.

    When you’re jumping from task to task, it can feel invigorating for a little while. Over time, this needs to fill every second with more and more work leads to burn out.

    We’re simply not built to multitask, so when we try, the effect can be exhausting. This destroys your productivity and your motivation.

    How to stop multitasking and work productively

    Flitting back and forth between tasks feels second-nature after a while. This is in part because Broadmann’s Area 10 becomes better at serial tasking through time.

    In addition to changing how the brain works, this serial tasking behavior can quickly turn into a habit.

    Just like any bad habit, you’ll need to recognize that you need to make a change first. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to adjust to a lifestyle of productive mono-tasking:

    1. Consciously change gears

    Instead of trying to work on two distinct tasks at once, consider setting up a system to remind you when to change focus. This technique worked for Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut onboard the space station, Mir.

    As an astronaut, he had many things to take care of every day. He set alarms for himself on a few watches. When a particular watch sounded, he knew it was time to switch tasks. This enabled him to be 100% in tune with what he was doing at any given moment.

    This strategy is effective because the alarm served as his reminder for what was to come next. Linenger’s intuition about setting reminders falls in line with research conducted by Paul Burgess of University College, London on multitasking.

    2. Manage multiple tasks without multitasking

    Raj Dash of Performancing.com has an effective strategy for balancing multiple projects without multitasking. He suggests taking 15 minutes to acquaint yourself with a new project before moving on to other work. Revisit the project later and do about thirty minutes on research and brainstorming.

    Advertising

    Allow a few days to pass before knocking out the project in question. While you were actively work on other projects, your brain continues to problem solve-in the background.

    This method works because it gives us the opportunity to work on several projects without allowing them to compete for your attention.

    3. Set aside distractions

    Your smartphone, your inbox and the open tabs on your computer are all open invitations for distraction. Give yourself time each day when you silence your notifications, close your inbox and remove unnecessary tabs from your desktop.

    If you want to focus, you can’t give anything else an opportunity to invade your mental space.

    Emails can be particularly invasive because they often have an unnecessary sense of urgency associated with them. Some work cultures stress the importance of prompt responses to these messages, but we can’t treat every situation like an emergency.

    Designate certain times in your day for checking and responding to emails to avoid compulsive checking.

    4. Take care of yourself

    We often blame electronics for pulling us from our work, but sometimes our physical body forces us into a state of serial tasking. If you’re hungry while you’re trying to work, your attention will flip between your hunger and your work until you take care of your physical needs.

    Try to take all your bio-breaks before you sit down for an uninterrupted stint of work.

    In addition, you’ll also want to be sure you’re attending to your health in a broader sense. Getting enough exercise, practicing mindfulness and incorporating regular breaks into your day will keep you from being tempted by distractions.

    5. Take a break

    People are more likely to head to YouTube or check their social media when they need a break. Instead of trying to work and watch a mindless video at the same time, give yourself times when you’re allowed to enjoy your distracting activity of choice.

    Advertising

    Limit how much time you’ll spend on this break so that your guilt-free distraction time doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.

    6. Make technology your ally

    Scientists are beginning to discover the detrimental effects of chronic serial tasking on our brains. Some companies are developing programs to curb this desire to multitask.

    Apps like Forest turn staying focused into a game. Extensions like RescueTime help you track your online habits so that you can be more aware of how you spend your time.

    The key to productivity: Focus

    Multitasking is not the key to productivity. It’s far better to schedule time to focus on each task than it is to try to do everything at once.

    Make use of the methods outlined above and prepare to be more effective and less exhausted in the process.

    If you want to learn more about how to focus, don’t miss my other article:

    How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Read Next