Do you suffer from clutter? Having a hard time focusing? There’s a link between clutter and lack of focus, which means a lack of productivity.
You’re now bombarded with more stimulus than the human brain has ever had to deal with before. The internet is chock full of information, entertainment, ‘infotainment’, invitations, ads, top tens, top twenties, top one-hundreds. Your life is full of work, family, friends, events. Your mind is reeling with all the intake.
And that’s just the mental clutter. If you’re busy, the physical clutter, the mess, can stack up. The two compliment each other. The more physical clutter, the more mental clutter. In fact, researchers from Princeton University found that clutter negatively affects your ability to focus and process information. This, then, creates stress.
Take the following steps toward eliminating clutter. You’ll thank yourself and your productivity will benefit.
Do some spring cleaning
Spring cleaning isn’t just the typical tidy-up-and-call-it-good project. It’s a thorough declutter job that will leave you feeling refreshed, no matter what season it is. Here are some spring cleaning tips to get you started:
- Set realistic expectations—if you expect you can do it all in one quick sweep, you’ll get overwhelmed; break the project down into segments and reward yourself for accomplishing each goal
- Invite company—regardless of whether they’re helping you clean, someone to talk to can help alleviate the dullness and drudgery of cleaning
- Stylize your wardrobe—think about the clothes you do and don’t need in terms of who you are now; have fun with it
- Rearrange your layout—even the positioning of your furniture can be a clutter-creator; think in terms of what helps a place breathe
Store or get rid of what you don’t need. Your home is where you start and end your day. Decluttering your home is highly necessarily for decluttering your life and improving productivity.
Do some good
If you lack motivation, making the effort to declutter can be really tough. You can tell yourself, ‘I need to be more productive’, but in what way is that a motivator? Try thinking about it, and acting on it, in terms of doing good for others. Here are some tips on how to declutter and do good:
- Donate used greeting cards—St Jude’s Ranch for Children, for one, has a recycled cards program that benefits abused, neglected and homeless children, as well as poor young adults and families
- Donate book—thrift stores and used book stores take all sorts of books, while schools will take kids’ books
- Donate expired coupons—if you have these sitting around, military families can use them for up to six months after expiration for commissary purposes; see Expired Coupons for Overseas Military and Troopon
And, donating other items that are in decent shape to thrift stores and homeless shelters is a fantastic way to do good while you declutter
Create an ‘important’ space
Designate a drawer or cabinet for items that normally sit out because you use them frequently. Get a mini file cabinet for important papers. Organize for easy access. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. If things you’ll need later aren’t in your visual field now, you won’t focus on them until when you need them.
Organize your workspace
A cluttered workspace is a huge problem when it comes to productivity. That goes for your email inbox as well as your desk. For the email inbox, setup a pending folder for messages you can’t get to right away, but you know you’ll need to get to them later. You may receive messages that aren’t spam, but you don’t necessarily need to read them. Create a filter for these.
As far as the physical workspace goes, use the beginning of each day to throw away things you don’t need, categorize papers you do need, and organize. Create applicable folders, such as the pending folder. At the end of the day you’re probably tired and eager to go home. That’s why it’s important to clean up and organize at the beginning. If you do it at the end, you may go home and think about work more, which is what we’re trying to avoid.
Get rid of junk
While cleaning your house, you may discover there’s just a lot more junk than you know what to do with. For a while you’ve been ‘shoving things under the rug’—throwing them in your garage or shed, or anywhere you don’t have to think about them. This could require a trip to the landfill. If you don’t have time, there are junk removal services. But then again, not having time is part of what I’m writing about dealing with here.
Prioritize your obligations
This is a tough one. The cluttered life is oftentimes marked by rushing around to attend every event, to appease all the people around you, to keep yourself entertained. It’s time to narrow it down. What’s most important to you? When you’re working on your focus, do just that.
Focus only on what’s necessary and what’s most important, such as family gatherings, dates, and quality time with friends. Keep a log-book with A, B, and C priority levels, in which you include times and dates for appointments.
Focus on work on while you’re at work. Focus on your relationships outside of work. Those relationships will benefit because you’re working on yourself.
Mindfulness is the ultimate way to declutter your thoughts. Above, I recommended keeping a log-book. That’s so you can file away appointments and not think about them until you’re there. While you’re doing something, practice mindfulness and appreciation. This is the act of observing your own thoughts without judgment. It’s the act of observing what’s happening around you.
If you don’t judge your thoughts and feelings about what’s happening, you’re not anxious. And, certain thoughts and feelings don’t stick around in a whirlpool of emotion, because you’ve categorized them objectively. Start by simply feeling the textures and sensual attributes of objects. Notice your thoughts about them. Categorize your thoughts, decide what to act on, what not to act on, and move on.