"It's not the mountain ahead that will wear you down, it's the pebble in your shoe."
~ Muhammad Ali
Professional Boxer, Philanthropist
We all experience seemingly small irritants that steal more time, energy, and confidence than we realize. I call these "pebbles in our shoes.” Have you ever been on a hike, and had a thorn or small stone make its way into your shoe? While this small irritant won't completely stop you from continuing your hike, it will slow you down and make the journey much less enjoyable.
If we don't take care of these pebbles, they continue to drain our attention from the things we truly wish to focus on. For example, take a kitchen junk drawer filled with non-functioning pens, unsharpened pencils without erasers, and a stapler that always seems to be empty. We feel defeated every time we go to make a to-do list or jot a reminder for ourselves. We waste time looking for the one pen that actually works, and we are disappointed in ourselves for forgetting to pick up paperclips at the store again. Our subconscious registers this as "You can't even keep a pen drawer straight, and you think you can make diamond level this quarter?" The mental and physical clutter we allow to accumulate depletes our energy, wastes our precious time, and undermines our confidence in our ability to do bigger and better things.
At one time, my wardrobe was a colossal pebble in my shoe. I had a dresser and closet, each overflowing with clothes collected over the previous 20 years. When the laundry was done, there was never enough room to put the clean clothes away, so a pile formed on the sofa in our bedroom. Every morning when I went to get dressed, I would rummage through the dresser, closet, and yes... the sofa. I tried on outfit after outfit that didn't look good, fit properly, or match my style anymore. Ultimately, I would end up wearing the same few items over and over.
On a few occasions I started going through the clothes, but inevitably I would end up thinking things like, "I shouldn't get rid of this, it was expensive, and I only wore it once", "I might use this one for a special occasion sometime" or, "this would work if we went on a tropical vacation." Of course, when we did go on vacation, I brought my favorite standbys or bought something while we were there. Special occasions often called for the same little black dress or something new altogether. Then, I read something that finally made sense to me. Marie Kondo author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up recommended taking each item of clothing in your hand and asking "Does this spark joy?" if not, it goes. It's that simple. I took her advice when I finally realized that the half an hour a day I was spending trying to find suitable clothes added up to about three and a half hours of wasted time each week. In addition to all of that lost time, I was starting each day with frustration. I set a Saturday aside, tried each item on, donated or consigned everything I didn't love, and regained my mornings.
That five-hour time investment that at first seemed daunting was regained in the first 2 weeks. Now, I have far fewer items, but they all fit and feel great. With this pebble removed, I am able to start my days more efficiently, and in a much better mood. What seemed like a project that could wait, turned out to have a significant impact on my ability to get more done each day.
What projects have you been putting off that would immediately add to your quality of life and efficiency each day?
Do any of these sound familiar?
Sheets that don't quite fit the bed properly (causing you to have to re-fit the corners if your partner moves suddenly)
Sifting through a closet full of outdated or outgrown clothes every morning to find the few items that are enjoyable to wear
Clutter in the garage that keeps you from getting the car in out of the snow, creating an additional stressful task to complete on a winter morning?
A huge Rubbermaid bin full of pictures of your kids as babies that you still need to organize (and your kids now have babies of their own)
A messy junk drawer that means you can't find what you need when you need it and are likely repurchasing items like super glue, tape measures, etc.
That waste of time, money and mental energy could be put to much better use. Most of us see these as trivial things that we can clear up later after our big projects are finished. People often don't realize that big projects could be done with so much less effort if the small things stealing their energy were removed.
Here is an exercise you can do to help you see where your time and energy "leaks" are. This will help you put them to rest so you can focus; free to fully embrace your bigger goals and create a truly vibrant life. Close your eyes and picture walking through every room of the house, then your office, and finally visualize your car. Create a chart like the one below (a free full-size blank chart is available for download in the resources section), and use it to list the things you feel need to be improved, cleaned up, fixed, etc.
As you review your list, ask yourself: Do I have to do it myself? Can I delegate it or hire someone? Next, choose a date by which you will complete each. You may find that much of your list could be taken care of in one weekend with the help of a handyman, a trip to Wal-Mart or Home Depot, and assistance from your kids and partner. Once you have your list set, plan a weekend to get as much taken care of as possible. Most tasks take so much less time to accomplish than we imagine!