Welcome to Day 3 in our Clutter-Free Challenge.
Yesterday I wrote about how we have a powerhouse of help when it comes to having a clear focus. After seeking God’s help with this de-cluttering process, the next step on our Clutter-Free journey deals with minds. I’ll venture to say 75% or more of our clutter problems aren’t because we don’t work hard enough, or that our homes are too small or our children are messy. Most of our problems start because we can’t think through what needs to be done. We can’t get our minds under control. We can’t make decisions. We are on mental overload.
Do you know that feeling?
For years, I lived with an ongoing sense that I should be doing something all the time. It ate at me. Even when I was focused on something important, there was a latent unease about what else I should be doing. It was an underlying anxiety that hung around, even when there was no pressing deadline or responsibility. It caused stress and lack of sleep.
It wasn’t until I read David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done, that I discovered a reason for this tension. It seems our brains aren’t designed to store and manage all of the information, deadlines and demands that swirl around us at all times.
Allen writes, “The big problem is that your mind keeps reminding you of things when you can’t do anything about them. It has no sense of past or future. That means that as soon as you tell yourself that you need to do something, and store it in your RAM (your mind), there’s a part of you that thinks you should be doing that something all the time.”
It was a head-slapping moment when I read those words. That was it! Allen goes on to explain that the first step to finding a solution is to get everything out of your mind and store it somewhere safe. Not the “safe” place you stored an important document at home, and now can’t find. But somewhere close at hand.
I realized my mind was trying to manage more stuff than it could hold, and one to-do list wasn’t the answer because it wasn’t keeping things in safe places.
With that in mind, I’m going to ask you to do something painful. Not as painful as stepping on a scale, but close. I want you to take a personal assessment of all your responsibilities, projects, priorities and tasks. Everything. Get it out of your mind and onto one notepad or spiral notebook – this will likely take more than one page, and that’s okay. If you have multiple to-do lists somewhere, combine them into this one list. Leave this list where you can see it morning, noon and night for a few days.
On this list write down everything you need to get done. You might start with your home and add repairs, cleaning projects or laundry. Write down things you need to do for your family, such as make a dentist appointment, write a letter to a teacher or take clothes to the dry cleaning. Then move on to other areas of your life: church, community involvement, sports teams, etc. Include big projects and little things, like errands and emails that need to be sent. Nothing is too small to include.
You might want to dedicate one page for future projects, such as planning this summer’s vacation or researching colleges with your daughter. Another page might contain things you want to do years from now, but you don’t want to forget.
If you are employed, you might want to keep those responsibilities separate.
This process will take you days. If it helps, you can organize this list however you see fit now, or just write things down as they come to mind. It’s okay if there is no order to it. Actually trying to organize it now might hinder you if you are a perfectionist. You might not leave yourself enough room in a certain category and then you’ll be frustrated.
For now, capture it all on paper. Don’t be surprised if you feel a bit panicky at how much you have to do. Just take a deep breath and ask for God’s peace. You will feel a sense of relief soon. Even if you go no further in this Clutter-Free journey, I promise you will feel better after this step is done. You’ll feel lighter.
Hold on to that list. Add to it. We’ll get back to it in a few days when I tell you how to use this list to create a project management planner. I think that’s enough for one day, don’t you?
Tomorrow I’ve got a tip for helping to de-clutter your mind even more. I think you’ll be surprised at what I’ve discovered multi-tasking can do to your brain.
One more thing. I’d love to give away a copy of my book, I Used to Be So Organized. To enter, just leave me a comment today. For fun, include in your comment one thing you are putting on your list. Make it something random, odd or unusual if possible. Or just an everyday thing which needs to get done. I’ll pick someone at random and post the winner on Thursday morning.
Until then …
Grace & Peace,
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me so much responsibility. It shows Your trust in me. Help me to be a good steward of the assignments You have given me. Help clear the clutter in my mind as I work through this exercise. Bring things to mind that You want me to remember. It feels overwhelming to me right now, but I know with Your help, I can manage this. In Jesus name, Amen.