Clearing space in the mind is how the successful remain nimble and stealthy. It is how they have the room for new information, new ideas and new insight. These mental pockets of nothingness open us up to the creative stream of consciousness.
Thinking clearly equates to thinking creatively. When we hit writer’s block on an article or feel uninspired about our work, it’s because we haven’t given ourselves time away from it. We need that emptiness to usher in the new and refine the old.
And if we never take time away from the hustle and grind of our careers, all else in our lives suffers. Our relationships, our health, our energy and our happiness.
Yet, all too often, we business owners scramble from client to client, wearing too many hats, overloading our calendars with too many appointments, and getting pulled in too many directions. At this pace, our minds don’t shut off and our feet don’t stop pushing 100 miles per hour.
Clutter is that chaos.
It’s not only the mess we see on our desks. The invoices, the mail, the scribbled post-its covering the computer screen. It’s primarily the stuff going on behind the scenes, inside.
It’s that all too familiar feeling of being stuck in our heads. Stuck in stress, anxiety and overwhelm.
The weight and burden of clutter is debilitating; crowding around us because we don’t make the time to clear it away. But neglecting to clear clutter drains our energy, too, lingering over us as something to do “later.”
Is it obvious how clutter holds us back in business and keeps us from the success we envision for ourselves? If not, don’t worry. Let’s unravel this clutter conundrum together.
How is Clutter Holding You Back in Business?
1. Clutter stands in our way.
Imagine you’re driving along the freeway when all of a sudden you see a mattress in your lane, how you might swerve to avoid it. Then in the new lane you’re in, you come across a stalled car. And the next lane a fallen tree. See how quickly traffic would come to a screeching halt with all that stuff in the way?
With every lane blocked, we can’t get through. This is what a cluttered mind feels like. Eventually, we can get through—the inspired, creative, attentive visionaries we naturally are.
Clutter in all forms kills our drive to go after our goals because it stands in our way, distracting our focus and depleting our energy. Disorder and disorganization slowly creep in and we lose our momentum.
2. Clutter blurs our image of success.
We never define success for ourselves because we’re too busy looking at the achievements of others and comparing our own accomplishments to theirs. And without that clear picture, we remain prey to whatever we hear in the news or see in magazines as the gold standard of success.
So if our wins appear to fall short of that rubric, we don’t recognize our own successes or celebrate our small victories. We don’t see the hills they climbed to get to where they are. We just see the outcome of years of dedicated hard work, and we think we have to get there “just as fast.”
Constantly comparing ourselves to others is discouraging. Caught up with what everyone else is doing, thinking we should do it in the exact same way, and at the same pace, we miss all of the unique opportunities popping up along our own paths. And the more opportunities we miss, the more disempowered we feel. All because we never took the time to set our measure of success and the intention to achieve it.
3. Clutter shrinks our money mindset.
Our association with money could be one of greed and control, or of generosity and cooperation. One of lack or of luxury. We think it is evil to be wealthy, or we think it is empowering. We either say “I’m broke” or “I can afford anything I want.” Believing in abundance and limitless income potential is what we all want to believe in. But do we?
So often we struggle with accepting how much we can earn or how much our services/products are worth because we’re referencing only what we’ve been exposed to or seen with our own two eyes. But what about the creative capacity of our minds?
Clutter blinds us to this truth. If we can dream it, we can have it—but clutter tends to stop us from dreaming.
4. Clutter limits our potential.
A cluttered mind forgets that what we believe, we can achieve. And if we don’t believe we can reach great heights, or change the world, we won’t. We stand in our own way.
To quote Confucius, “The man who says he can and the man who says he can’t are both correct.” The minute we speak “can’t” into our lives, we make it so. Something as simple as believing you can do anything you put your mind to will draw all the resources to you to make it happen. But when we clutter our view with limiting beliefs, lies and stories of lack, we deny ourselves that innate power.
Dealing with the barrage of clutter, without the daily practices to clear it away, will continue to zap our energy, and leave us feeling deflated and defeated. No business thrives under that kind of owner. Even a cluttered environment, where you’re visually reminded of what you’re not doing (or not cleaning), is enough to make you lose steam.
5. Clutter causes us to procrastinate.
I call it the curse of perfectionism. We avoid projects or tasks because we need everything to be perfect first. All that overanalyzing and overthinking causes us to second-guess ourselves and never even start.
Clutter distracts, and detracts, from the goals of the day. We’re took busy procrastinating by cleaning off our desk, or putting the dishes away “real quick,” that we lose the motivation to work we start to feel like we’re being pulled in so many directions. And we are! We have no focus.
Soon we become disengaged and disenchanted with our careers and businesses—no matter what phase of growth we’re in. It’s natural to feel uninspired when we’re constantly berating our efforts and putting down our abilities. Or when we’re constantly drowning in paper and can’t find the file we’re looking for. That would make anyone want to throw in the towel.
This much is true: The sight of clutter is draining. The sound of clutter is deafening. The thought of clutter is debilitating. So we need to get deliberate about creating the environment for our businesses to thrive.
What Can You Do to Declutter Your Business?
What can we do to declutter our businesses (and, most importantly, our business mindset) for maximum productivity and focus? Here are a few easy tips.
1. First thing in the morning, take a few minutes to calm your mind before you open a book, get on your phone, or hold a conversation. Sit upright, in silence, and taking long, intentional breaths in and out. During this time of relaxation, you can meditate with closed eyes, sip hot tea and admire a painting on your wall, or sit on the porch staring out into nature. Do as little as possible in these first few precious morning minutes.
2. Open windows and let some fresh air into your office. Clear out the stale air of yesterday, and invite in movement and flow into the room. You too, get some fresh air into your lungs before you even sit down to work. Stand by the open windows or walk outside in order to oxygenate your blood and brain, readying it for the work session ahead.
3. Hopefully you have a private workspace, so you can shut the door and channel your attention onto your day’s objectives. If not, find a place that allows for undisturbed work, even if it’s getting away from the house or office and to a coffee shop. This way, you’re not as susceptible to familiar distractions and neighborly interruptions.
4. Keep your goals front and center at your work station. Big block letters or a vision board—just get something up, hanging on your wall near your computer screen. Refer to them often and check in with your gut to see if whatever you’re working on in a given moment is in alignment with your dreams. With your goals staring you in the face, you might end up saying No to shiny objects more often.
5. Don’t hoard mail, receipts, business cards or other scraps on your desk for weeks at a time. Make Friday your Desktop Declutter day, where you scan and/or file anything that’s stacked on your desk or computer desktop waiting for a home. If you do this weekly, this administrative task will only take a few minutes to reconcile the week’s pile-up. Put it all away in the time you allotted; no switching tasks until this is done.
6. End your work day by writing down your most pressing objectives for tomorrow. Try to limit this list to 3-4 items so it is not overwhelming and your new day’s focus is crystal clear. Whenever you wrap up a work “shift,” you know exactly what’s next for any open projects, so capitalize on that clarity while you have it. Leaves one less thing to figure out when you sit down to work the next day.
The less time you spend dealing with clutter in your mental and physical space, the more down-time for you to recharge and rejuvenate, the more leisure time to spend with family and friends, and the more free time to do the things that light you up.
Striking a work/life balance is part of decluttering our businesses. Health, home and everything else in our lives deserve our time and attention, too. We’d all like to find an easy way to fit it all in. With enough space, free from clutter, we can do so.
With enough space, we can move freely and confidently toward the call of success—without clutter blocking our way.