Robyn Pearce: Why do people resist tidying up?

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Are you happy with being in a muddle? Photo / Thinkstock
Are you happy with being in a muddle? Photo / Thinkstock

I'm chuckling at some of the entertaining posts after my last contribution 'What Is That Mess In My Office?

Whenever I talk about how to improve the look and feel - and therefore the efficiency - of the spaces we inhabit, it's fascinating to watch the reactions. If it's a speech, heads nod all over the room as people identify with the pain of clutter - and the lift of energy and release of stress when they tidy up.

And anyone who disagrees, faced with a large majority of people of a different opinion, keep their thoughts to themselves.

But, when it's a blog post such as this I have to duck a few missiles for daring to suggest that there might be a better way.

Nothing personal, guys. Don't hit the bearer of good tidings. Did your mothers say 'clean up your room' too often? Or maybe you really do like living/working in clutter and mess? (Oh sorry - creative confusion.) Or perhaps you don't know how to get out of the chaos? (In my 20 years of teaching productivity, the last is the main reason.)

If you're happy in your muddle, I'm not trying to change you and you're welcome to stop reading. But - if you're not happy with the sense of overwhelm that almost always accompanies clutter, stick with me.

The good news is, the journey's well worth the effort and it really doesn't take long to either set up or maintain - once you know how. You're better able to keep on top of your workload. Time is not wasted in unproductive searches. Quality time is not spent on desk clean-ups. And you feel in control. You also feel good about yourself. Your self-esteem lifts and therefore all parts of your life are positively impacted.

Example:

At the conclusion of a day's training for Suzanne and her staff, although we'd achieved a lot, I sensed that she still had a blockage about her paperwork and office. I offered to spend a few hours helping her sort it out. Her staff said 'She's impossible to help', but Suzanne jumped at the opportunity.

I arrived the next week to find a frazzled woman and a spacious but incredibly cluttered office - with not a clear space on table, desk or chairs.

'I've decided if I'm going to work for another 10 - 15 years I've just got to get this issue handled,' she said in despair as we viewed her imitation of a town tip. 'I'm so frustrated and bogged down by it all, I think I'll take tomorrow off.'

We started to sort the chaos, using the process explained in an earlier Herald article: '5 Keys to Sorting Out Your Office'. A Candid Camera crew would have had a field day.

At first she tried to handle paper in her old way, pushing everything to the 'I'll think about that later' pile. As I insisted that she make a decision on each item instead, she became more and more cranky. Suddenly, about 15 minutes into the process, her thinking changed gear. Decisions poured out so fast I could barely keep up.

Three and a half hours later she was almost jumping out of her skin with energy! As I left she stood there with a look of ecstasy, excitedly planning the next day's projects. I heard her say to one of her staff, 'I can't believe what I see. I never thought I could get this handled and it's so easy.'

She'd been worried that if she spent time in what she'd seen as an administration function, she wouldn't be putting time into the high-level work her position required. Once it became clear that a better decision-making process and a few simple changes in her working methods would reduce her stress and improve her productivity, she was a convert!

Two years later, in a different job, she rang specifically to tell me that she was still using the simple decision-making process and techniques she learnt that day. (I'll share some more with you in future articles.)

Reader giveaway: We have 2 double passes (worth $190.00 each) to giveaway to Robyn's next Breakfast Club in Auckland (27 April), Wellington (25th May) or Christchurch (June date tba).

To be in to win, email your entry now to jill@gettingagrip.com with Breakfast (NZ Herald Online) in the subject line. Entries close by 5pm Friday 20th April. For those who miss out, tickets and more details are at: www.gettingagrip.com/breakfastclub/

Robyn Pearce (known as the Time Queen) runs an international time management and productivity business, based in New Zealand. Get your free report 'How To Master Time In Only 90 Seconds' and ongoing time tips at www.gettingagrip.com

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