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Time To Deal With That Mess

We all probably have at least one messy place in our office or home. Of course, everyone is busy and it isn't always easy to find the time for putting things in their proper place, but that is usually not the reason why 'stuff' accumulates. Rather, the growing piles and stacks consist of things such as books we told ourselves to read ("The must-have productivity guide EVERYONE is reading now!"), papers we wanted to process, and projects we haven't quite gotten around to. Sorting through old materials can be frustrating: Why aren't things getting done, and how ARE we using our time? These sentiments can make it even harder to tackle the dusty piles.

Here are a few tips for finally addressing that messy spot in your space:

Don't think of cleaning up as one big task

Unless they are associated with a natural disaster, messy piles don't spring up overnight. They grow slowly, almost unnoticed, until they suddenly become annoying or embarrassing. The best way to approach them is in very specific, manageable steps. Instead of telling yourself to "clean the office/attic/bookshelf" (and then feeling guilty or angry with yourself for not doing it), define a few smaller tasks you can do in the time you have. In the situation shown above, a helpful start could be to take all the mugs off the desk. A next step could be to put all magazines and journals in a pile for review.

Make "mess reduction" a small daily chore

Completing a specific task in 10 minutes ("Stack all magazines") is infinitely easier than facing a daunting mess and not knowing where to start. It is helpful to include a short "mess time" in your daily planning, perhaps always at the same time of day. Early afternoon or evening hours, when you are less likely to focus on other work, are perfect for organizing tasks. Taking a few things off a pile every day will eliminate it at the same pace that it took to gather.

 

It's OK to let some aspirations go

Sure, you were planning to read the The Brothers Karamasov last winter or were all set to apply for that community grant, but you didn't, and it is OK to admit that. Conceding that some things will simply not happen can be quite liberating. New reading material comes out every day, and important points are often repeated, so do you really need to hang on to that professional journal you planned to read in late 2013? Is it perhaps easier to research a topic online than laboriously putting newspaper clippings in a folder that you will never look at again?

Good time management is not just about improving your productivity, but also about making things simpler and more manageable for yourself. Don't expect yourself to read everything that comes your way in times of information overload and distraction. Clearing up messy spaces in small steps is the best remedy for recapturing your own priorities and focus.

What are some of your best approaches to organizing? Share them here!

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