Recently I’ve been listening to How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana K. White, creator of A Slob Comes Clean. She shares lots of useful nuggets.
“Clutter is anything that consistently gets out of control.”– Dana K. White
When it comes to clutter most people think of physical stuff, but what if I told you that mental stuff can be clutter too?
Mental clutter can look like:
- Too many unread emails
- Too many appointments on your calendar with little white space between
- Too many tasks on your plate
- A goal list a mile long that you never seem to get to
- Clients you tolerate
“Your clutter threshold is the amount of stuff you can personally manage easily.”– Dana K. White
Each person has their own unique clutter threshold. If given the same list of tasks one person might be overwhelmed, while another checks it off easily. Figuring out your clutter threshold is key to helping you manage your stuff, including your time, energy and resources.
“A container is meant to contain.”-Dana K. White
In her book, Dana spends a lot of time on her Container theory. When she realized that her home was a container and each room had its own specific function and was also a container- her theory was born.
When dealing with physical clutter, you first start by assigning a “home” to the items you find. When that “home” gets full, you have to decide what to keep and what to let go of so the remaining items fit inside the container.
But what do you do when it’s your mental space that is cluttered?
It’s not like you can assign “homes” for thoughts in your brain, right?
Let your calendar be your container.
There are only 24 hours per day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. Most of us have a spouse, children, families and clients. Each one demands time from us. Add in running a business and our schedule can quickly fill up. When we have too many demands on our time, we reach or exceed our mental clutter threshold and become overwhelmed.
When this happens, some people freeze and shut down, while others work themselves into exhaustion trying to keep up. It’s important to figure out what on your list is container worthy and let go of the rest.
What can YOU personally handle?
The only way to figure out your clutter threshold is to declutter until you can easily manage your stuff. Easy right?
Not for everyone. Nearly every thought in my head is a “good idea.” I have the best intentions. Only time is finite. Remember 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week, etc. I can’t do everything.
A few years back, when things were overwhelming in my life, I crammed my calendar full of activities. If I was in-motion, I wasn’t thinking about my husband being unemployed or losing all my clients in a short period of time. I had people to see and things to do. Only none of that stuff was productive. It wasn’t moving me closer to a full business. It was clutter.
When I started saying no to clutter, it opened my schedule for the things that mattered. The container worthy activities that got the ball rolling.
Here are some tips to decluttering your mental space:
1. Do a brain dump: a brain dump gets everything out of your head and onto paper where you can easily see what you’re thinking.
2. Organize your list into like categories: You can start broad like Business and Personal. Then narrow down to Family, Goals, Hobbies, Non-Negotiable (Important), etc. Or it could be Physical Activities, Mental Tasks, Household, Daily, When I Get Around To it. Consolidate like items, i.e. errands, calls, computer work, while kids are napping, Honey Do.
3. Create and schedule time blocks based on your energy levels: Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you do better creatively mid-day? Track your energy levels for the best time of day to do physical, mental and creative tasks. Outline blocks of time that you think will work for you in your calendar or a separate weekly/monthly calendar. For example, one of my clients has more physical energy in the mornings, later in the day her mental energy is higher. I suggested she block morning hours for physical tasks and use the later hours for mental tasks.
4. Prioritize your tasks with reality in mind: not every task on your to-do list has to be done by you, right away, or maybe at all. As you drop tasks into their corresponding time block, you’ll start to see how much you’re trying to stuff into that container. There are only so many hours of the day and you have a finite amount of energy. Factor in your reality, like a family that needs three meals a day, your client meetings or getting enough sleep. Put the tasks in order of importance. Schedule non-negotiable things first on your calendar, then plug your to-do list tasks where they fit.
5. Declutter, declutter, declutter: if a task doesn’t fit, let it go. Can you delegate it or delete it? Can it be rescheduled to when you have more time? Maybe it’s time to hire a house cleaner to do a deep clean or a virtual assistant to take over some of your business tasks. Say no to things that aren’t in line with your goals. If you’re growing a business that will naturally be your focus until it’s running smoothly, it may not be the right time to take on a volunteer board position.
“Let your container be the bad guy.”– Dana K. White
There will always be new opportunities that come knocking for your time, energy, and resources. Knowing that your calendar is a container and you have finite space within it can give you the encouragement you need to focus on the important things in your life.
What happens when something comes along that you really want to do, but you don’t have space on your calendar? Use the One-In-One-Out rule. For every demand on your time that you accept, space needs to be created in your container. What task or activity are you going to let go of in order to do the new thing? Ask yourself, is this new thing container worthy? If yes, then what is less container worthy that you can remove?
Do you think you’ve reached your clutter threshold? Do you need help figuring out how to declutter your to-do list? I can help you sort through mental clutter and work through the items on your To Do List. My superpower is helping clients make their lives easier and I’d love to help you! Schedule a discovery call with me to learn more.