Almost every time I work with coaching clients who struggle with overwhelm, especially when it's accompanied by a messy or cluttered environment, I'm reminded of two inter-linked habits that, once mastered, rapidly lift off that heavy burden of exhaustion and frustration.
1. The habit of making decisions quickly
2. The habit of completion
Neil's office looked like a dog's breakfast. On his desk and table there were bulging files and disorganised piles of unopened mail and magazines. Stacked up against the wall were old conference bags. On every other flat surface were heaps of 'I'll put this away later' items. In a corner was a big untidy jumble of 'I'm planning to get these things fixed'. In another corner was a stack of 'I'm going to either recycle or give this lot away - one day'. The whole office was a smorgasbord of deferred decisions, incomplete actions and wishful good intentions.
Is it any wonder that Neil was exhausted, lacking in motivation and feeling as though he had no time? Bottom line - every day was a struggle. And every evening he beat himself up for not putting more time into the important tasks that would make a difference to his business.
The fastest way I know to overcome this very common issue is to dedicate a few hours to sorting out and setting up an efficient system. Some would say 'we can't stop to just do a tidy up - pressing business matters won't wait.' Very occasionally that is true but in almost all cases the spring-clean releases so much energy that that the comparatively small investment of time spent on re-organising pays huge dividends in clear headspace and more time for the tasks that really matter.
There are 4 steps:
1. Ask yourself: Have I got the right equipment and layout?
2. Clean out the clutter
3. Set up good systems and find a dedicated space for each item important enough to keep
4. Develop a compulsion to closure. That way you'll be much less likely to backslide. .
Today let's just take a look at this habit of completion, specifically the habit of putting away as you go so you don't fall into the clutter trap in the first place - or don't go back there once you'd had a big clean up.
The habit of putting away as we go seems so simple that we might wonder how it could be so significant. The thing is, it only takes a moment or two to put something away whilst it's still fresh in our mind. Think of the last time you put things away as soon as you walked into your office from a meeting.
It may have been hard to resist the very natural tendency to dump 'stuff' so you could quickly attend to the next important activity. But if you did tidy first, how did you feel hours later, when there were no lurking piles shouting 'Hey, you've forgotten me'? Typically there's a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and energy. And - we feel as though we've got more time.
In order to go faster first we must go slower.