Each day brings new opportunity to strengthen our resolve towards staying focused on what is most important. Given the constant stream of distraction and competing priorities it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep our time and energy focused on purpose and priorities. I’ve placed all the big rocks into the jar and am working hard to focus on those big tasks but others continually pour into the jar pebbles, sand, and water in an attempt to fill in what they may perceive as available margin in my life that they can make use of, rather than letting me enjoy the margin I have created for myself.
Fight distraction. Focus on purpose. Work on “big rock” priorities.
Our minds are too easily cluttered with competing thoughts that cause nagging stress, anxiety, and worry. Competing thoughts are all vying for prime attention in our poor, addled brains. We can’t stop thinking about it all and we certainly don’t have time to actually do everything in one day.
So what do we do?
Many elaborate solutions have been promoted by experts over the years, but I so often find these solutions are too difficult to implement as a daily routine. They feel like just another set of competing tasks that seem too difficult to achieve and don’t help me stay focused on my purpose. I have discovered success by implementing a simple, daily, systematic, and purposeful workflow wherein each step is intentionally pointed at not only dealing with and resolving all the “stuff” that is cluttering my mind and environment but also inching me a little closer to achieving my life purpose.
It all starts with implementing a 7 step process focused on dealing with both mental and physical clutter:
- Identify things in life that are out of place. Determine a clear purpose for your life and then make note of those things (activities, stuff, clutter, todo’s, commitments, etc.) that don’t serve a role in achieving the clear purpose.
Empty the mind of unnecessary worry, stress, and anxiety. Mental clutter can result from trying to keep too much in our heads. The brain is not meant to be used for keeping checklists but rather to solve problems and be creative. Empty your mind of todo’s and checklists into an application or notebook so as to ease the mind of its worry and anxiety.
Give stuff away that is not needed. Physical clutter that is not serving a purpose or is not giving us enjoyment should be given away to someone in need.
Create a trusted place to put all remaining important things. Select an application (i.e. Evernote) or a physical notebook that is your trusted place to keep notes and track important things.
Consistently put everything in the one trusted place. Develop a process for ALWAYS putting EVERYTHING important in that one trusted place.
Assign priority, time, and energy to each item in the trusted place. Spend time with each item in the trusted place determining what its contribution is towards achieving your purpose. Organizing, prioritizing, categorizing, and tagging important things can make using the items in the future much easier.
Repeat the system and continually review for improvement opportunities. Periodically re-examine your now-organized stuff from various levels of granularity to make sure your vertical focus (individual projects and their tasks) is working in concert with your horizontal focus (side to side scanning of all incoming channels for new stuff).
In summary, turn all the clutter into real, actionable items or things you can just get rid of. Everything you keep has a clear reason for being in your life at any given moment, whether it is needed now or in the future. This process results in an amazing level of confidence leading to a methodical and organized way for keeping the mind focused on priorities and purpose.
Following a daily, systematic, disciplined process is the key to productivity, and I encourage you to implement these ideas starting today.
Sources: many of these thoughts can be attributed to David Allen’s Getting Things Done system of productivity.
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