In a nod to the season, it's time to de-clutter your life and shake off the excess
By Mifi Purvis | April 1, 2012
We can cocoon ourselves in a blanket of just about anything: Facebook, volunteer commitments, an overly packed schedule. But in a nod to the season, it’s time to de-clutter your life and shake off the excess.
PROBLEM: Joiner’s Glut FIX: Stick to meaningful commitments
The deep fatigue of Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail‘s pregnancy hit her hard in her first trimester and she knew she’d need to make some changes to her busy schedule. She was not only a busy historian and writer, but a habitual hand-raiser. She took a look at her schedule and found it packed with networking, social and volunteer commitments, in addition to researching and writing her second book, this one about aviation in the North.
“I needed to respect these two priorities: My pregnancy and my book,” Metcalfe-Chenail says. One of her volunteer positions, president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, was as time-consuming as it was rewarding, but she knew she couldn’t simply walk away. “I put a transition strategy in place,” she says. “I found someone to finish the company’s website redesign and someone else to write the newsletter – I stepped into a vice-president’s role.” Her new position keeps her current, but doesn’t push aside the other aspects of her life.
Prioritizing and delegating are essential to de-cluttering your life, says Bea Bohm-Meyer, a corporate culture expert who coaches a variety of business leaders and executives. “Clutter gives us a sense of belonging, of importance,” she says. “It’s hard to shake that.” And while spring is a great time to start on the road to simplifying, she says de-cluttering is an ongoing effort.
PROBLEM: Digital Collector’s Crutch FIX: Learn to let go
Some of us need a little help de-cluttering, whether it’s the sweater basket or the email in-basket. Bohm-Meyer works with business professionals to streamline their career lives, and it’s a lesson that she’s had to learn too. “I tend to hold on to articles,” she says. “I feel like if I delete them, I’ll lose that knowledge.”
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Our digital lives are increasingly clutter hotspots. “Too much email creates anxiety and fear,” Bohm-Meyer says. And it can lead to failure to act on important matters. Whether it’s your work email, personal account or Facebook page, she advises you handle a message just once, if possible.
“Look at it and, if you don’t need it, discard it,” she says. “Delegate it to someone if it’s not something you can address. If you can address it, act on it immediately. And – this is one I try to discourage – if you have to, file it for later.” If that’s the case, a careful email filing system is necessary, with a regular time slot set aside to follow-up. Bohm-Meyer challenges her clients to check their email accounts just twice a day rather than letting it interrupt their work.
Along with email, social media saps time and psychic energy. Bohm-Meyer advises clients to connect with their networks in real life. Nobody really has 500 friends. If your Facebook page amuses you, keep it, but limit visits to every few days and put a time cap on it. Better yet, parse it, delete some “friends” or, even your whole profile and create another under an alias. That way, you’re in charge of choosing friends. Or you can pare down your existing friends list and then make your profile unsearchable. Your privacy settings are in the upper right-hand corner, and you can disable public searches with a few clicks.
PROBLEM: Crammed Calendar Syndrome FIX: Pay respect to your passions
Tamara Roberts has a busy life by anyone’s standards. An elementary school teacher and yoga instructor, she maintains a long-distance relationship with a man in Calgary. She and her partner maintain social lives in two cities, planning where they’ll be a few weeks in advance, but leaving some room for flexibility.
Roberts fits a lot into her weeks, but the trick is recognizing that she can’t do everything. “To maintain the balance in my life, yoga is one of the most important things,” she says. “I schedule other things around it.”
She makes time for her friendships, concentrating on the ones that count. Roberts tries to cluster her activities to use her time efficiently. For example, if she has a hair appointment or a yoga class in the same neighbourhood as a friend, she’ll schedule in a visit. “I still over-commit sometimes,” she admits, “but my perspective about what’s important has changed – I don’t worry so much about failure. I can forgive myself.” That’s a sentiment Bohm-Meyer supports. When you assess your commitments, “you have to be brave,” she says.
“Understand the impact of how you choose to spend your time.”