More About Choices and Habits

How to De-Stuff Your Space and Schedule

Would you like to take the “over” out of “overwhelmed?” In the busyness of everyday life, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in your space or activities in your schedule.

In the article, A New Relationship With Your Stuff & Schedule, we emphasized one component of our Flexible Structure Method™ of organizing and productivity as I discussed establishing a new relationship with your stuff and schedule. In this article I will highlight two more components so you can create better life-flow.

Make Smart Choices: Figure out possible options and choose the best one. Choices include whether or not to stick to boundaries and habits, where to put an item or a task and how much stuff to buy or keep. Choices can only be made on known factors. Most choices can be modified as your situation and needs change.

Develop Meaningful Habits: Create habits so you know what to do when new stuff enters your space or when a new task demands your time. You already have habits, but they might not be functional. A practical habit leads to an uncluttered space and a manageable schedule.

Here are some examples:

Home: Your kitchen is crowded with appliances and gadgets so you hardly have counter space for food preparation. It’s also difficult to access utensils and equipment when you need it without taking everything out of the cabinet or drawer. You can choose to designate a specific amount of space for each category of appliance and gadget. Other choices include: deleting rarely used items, not purchasing new items unless you have a space to put them and labeling drawers & shelves so everyone can put items back in their appropriate place.

Meaningful kitchen habits might include emptying the dishwasher as soon as the cycle is finished, putting away food purchases immediately and washing pots & pans at the end of a meal. You might also develop a method for “rotating” canned goods so that none of them expire or put leftovers on one shelf in the refrigerator so that it’s easier to remember what’s available.

Photo by hlian.

Office: Despite claims of an electronic office, you seem to have more papers than ever. They are stacked on every available flat surface and tend to lead to “analysis paralysis” because you don’t know where to start or what to do first. Be deliberate in choosing what you print from the computer. Whether it is an email or information on the web, don’t print it out unless really necessary and know where you will put the information once it is printed.

It’s important to develop habits around how you handle new tasks that come in via paper (a printed email or a note). Do you enter it into your calendar or put it on a list? I put tasks and appointments into my electronic calendar. If I have additional information in another location (email, paper, etc.) I add a note to the appointment or task. If the paper requires some other action such as a receipt that needs to go to my bookkeeper, I put it into the appropriate folder in the action station on my desk.

Schedule: “No” is one of the most powerful choices when responding to a request for your time. You decide whether or not the task fits into your personal or professional goals. You also decide how much time to allot to activities and whether or not it is necessary to delete one project when taking on a new one. Prioritizing also requires making choices.

Do you begin your day with tasks that are top of mind? If so, you might want to change this habit. It’s important to know when your energy is the highest and the lowest to plan tasks accordingly. In the workplace, people often start the day by checking email. This often means that it’s late morning or early afternoon before they start to tackle their task list. One choice is to start the habit of checking email for 30 minutes in the morning and then work on the task that requires the most energy. If you are an afternoon or evening person, you may want to move your high energy tasks later in the day and complete low energy tasks earlier in the day.

Here are some questions you can ask to help make smart choices and develop meaningful habits:

o What choices do I have? List all of them, even ones that don’t seem possible. Sometimes out of the box thinking leads to a suitable resolution.

o What am I willing to do to make a smart choice? What am I willing to give up to make a smart choice? If you have too many books, you might set two bookcases as your boundary which also means you may need to stop purchasing books. Small changes are easier to master.

o What habits do I need to create or replace? Which clutter in your space or schedule is driving you crazy? Start with habit creation in those areas.

o What behaviors should replace the non-functioning habits? Rather than trying to stop a non-functioning habit altogether it’s often easier to substitute a useful one in its place.

o What am I willing to do to develop a meaningful habit? What am I willing to give up to develop a meaningful habit? If you want to spend less time getting ready in the morning, you may have to get up a little earlier which means going to sleep a earlier or losing sleep. You want to make small changes.

o What do I need to help me make smart choices or develop meaningful habits? It may be the support of a friend or professional.

Start by developing a meaningful habit (which may include making a smart choice). Then add new habits as you feel comfortable with the previous ones.

Find it difficult to make smart choices or develop meaningful habits? It’s okay to ask for help. It’s most important to take the first step so you can attain better life-flow this year.

Let us know if Minding Your Matters® can help with these or other components of the Flexible Structure Method™ so you can attain organization with lasting results™!