Juliet* rang for help in desperation, so overwhelmed and stressed with the sheer volume of paperwork, unsorted archives and general clutter in every room of her house and office that just looking at it plunged her into depression. As a result she'd just buried her head in the sand.
We set aside a day to work together and she began the transformation. She made great progress with the sorting that is the essential first step. As we emptied boxes and bags of paperwork I observed her behavioural patterns and, when appropriate, offered suggestions about improved processes. My role in such contracts is not to be the sorter and enforcer of my own ideas, but rather to support, educate and quietly encourage the building of improved habits.
When a client needs declutter help I commonly work with them for one face-to-face session and they're able to continue on their own, armed with new knowledge.
For Juliet*, however, the help needed to extend, due to the complexity of her situation and the five-year backlog of 'stuff' (including important current paperwork that she'd been ignoring) that had accumulated during a period of major upheaval.
For her we included short coaching calls to help her keep on track and moving forward and then a second day together. Changing the habits of a life-time can be a long process, as we all know.
A comment she made on one of the calls highlighted an issue experienced by many who struggle with similar situations.
She said: 'I've noticed that I'm constantly interrupting my flow of activities. I start something, think of a related task, rush off to do the second thing before finishing the first one, and before I know it several hours have gone by and I'm in a worse muddle, with even more things unfinished.'
If you also struggle with similar issues you may find the following strategies helpful:
1. Don't act instantly. Every time an opportunity or a person shows up wanting your input, or when you're trying to decide which of a choice of actions to do, pause and ask yourself, 'What is the No. 1 thing I need to do right now?'
2. Aim for completion, even if it's small. For example, don't open the mail and leave it on a bench. Take it to the work desk, sort it into the relevant action file, possibly using an upright desk organiser like the fabulous Quefile and if necessary make a note in the diary to remind you of the task. Everything's to hand when you need it and, more importantly, there's no mail lurking in multiple places.
3. When you're working on something and a distracting thought comes up, just jot it down if you fear you'll forget but DON'T run off and start the new task at that moment. A personal example - as I was sorting my briefcase, having been away from my office for a few days, I remembered I had to urgently order a LIM report from the Council. I had to be quite firm with myself - with an internal command of: 'Finish one thing at a time, Robyn!' It only took 90 seconds to finish the unpacking and then, with a clear mind and a task complete, I went to the computer to sort out the LIM.
These techniques seem so simple but I can promise you, after 22 years of specialising in time management, that many don't apply them. Just look at the offices around you - it's a rare company where everyone makes a habit of completion.
*Identity changed for the normal reason.