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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 February 17, 2021

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

    If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

    No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

    Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

    1. Set a Timer

    Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

    In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

    2. Eliminate All Distractions

    Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

    You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

    3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

    Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

    Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

    Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

    4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

    Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

    If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

    5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

    By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

    Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

    6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

    Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

    7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

    Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

    Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

    Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

    8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

    To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

    Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

    Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

    9. Don’t Multitask

    Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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    For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

    10. Step Away from the Computer

    The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

    I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

    11. Use Focus Tools

    Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

    Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

    Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

    12. Just Start

    Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

    Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

    13. Find out Your Productive Hours

    Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

    Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

    14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

    This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

    15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

    The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

    When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

    And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

    16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

    I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

    Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

    17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

    The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

    Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

    18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

    As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

    “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

    This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

    19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

    I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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    Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

    20. Get Plenty of Sleep

    When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

    Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    21. Exercise

    Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

    Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

    Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

    22. Outsource as Much as Possible

    If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

    Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

    23. Set Some Exciting Goals

    Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

    Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

    24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

    When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

    25. Listen to Podcasts

    Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

    Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

    Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

    26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

    This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

    Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

    27. Learn to Speed Read

    When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

    You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

    28. Learn to Skip When You Read

    When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

    Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

    29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

    Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

    We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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    30. Take a Break

    You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

    31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

    What is polyphasic sleep?

    Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

    While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

    32. Learn to Say “No”.

    We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

    Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

    33. Go on an Information Diet

    Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

    Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

    The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

    34. Organize Your Office

    The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

    Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

    35. Find a Mentor

    By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

    A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

    36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

    With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

    When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

    Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

    Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

    37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

    Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

    You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

    38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

    If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

    Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

    How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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    39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

    Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

    Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

    40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

    Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

    Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

    41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

    When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

    Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

    42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

    The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

    Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

    43. Take Shorter Showers

    This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

    44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

    Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

    45. Auto Pay Your Bills

    How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

    Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

    46. Shop Online

    Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

    47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

    Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

    If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

    48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

    If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

    Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

    49. Turn off the TV

    The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

    For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

    Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

    50. Use a Tivo or DVR

    This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

    So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

    More Time Management Tips

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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