Last week I talked about removing the “pebbles in your shoe." The focus was primarily on physical clutter. This week I am focusing on another type of pebble and that is mental clutter. From the time we wake up in the morning until we hit the pillow at night, we are constantly making decisions. Some of these are big, but many are so small you may not even register them as decisions at all. We decide what to wear, what to eat, how much to eat, what plate to put the food on, whether to have a drink, where to sit... (see where I am going with this?). The average adult makes about 35,000 decisions per day.
Studies have shown that there is, in fact, a limit to our capacity for good judgment. No matter how organized, educated or enlightened we may be, beyond a certain number of choices in one day, decision fatigue sets in. When this happens, the brain begins to take shortcuts by making impulsive decisions ("just send the proposal out, I can't look at it anymore, I'm sure it's fine"), or by shutting down and refusing to make any decisions at all ("I don't care what we do this weekend, you decide"). We can take steps to reduce this mental clutter.
What could you accomplish if your mental space were tidied up? You could be more efficient, focused, and creative for a start. Here are two of my favorite techniques for reducing mental clutter: Time blocking which we will discuss here and a short, simple evening routine which we will address next week.
TIME-BLOCKING: SETTING ASIDE TIME FOR THE THINGS THAT MATTER
While technology has indeed made life more efficient in many ways, it has also allowed us to neglect planning. After all, we can set reminders so we don't have to remember appointments until the day before (or day of), we answer work calls in the car, answer email on vacation, and we can even write a class paper on a phone if we are desperate. This may seem wonderfully convenient at first glance, but in reality, it has created an environment where many of us fail to plan and end up constantly "on duty", stressed out, and rarely at our best or most effective.
By consciously creating blocks of time for our priorities, we take back control of our lives. Sunday afternoon is a great time to determine your top goals for the week. Make a list, and then block off chunks of time for each in your calendar. This will ensure that there is time set aside for the big projects, as well as things that can quickly fall by the wayside, such as meal planning, errands, family time, health and fitness, etc. As the saying goes...if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
Gary Keller, the co-founder of Keller-Williams Realty, claims that time blocking helps him focus without distraction. He allots the first 4 hours of each day to his biggest priority. Wow! can you imagine what you could accomplish if that were a habit for you?
"My motto is: Until my number one priority is done each day, all else is distraction." ~Gary Keller Entrepreneur, Author, Founder of Keller Williams
In our digital age, we are constantly bombarded with unnecessary information and perceived demand for immediate responses to Facebook messages or calls to action in our texts and emails. If you are scrolling through social media and responding to every text, email, and "ding" that your phone bombards you with during the first few hours of the day, you have most likely used up much of your good decision-making capacity before the days truly critical decisions have been addressed. I recommend setting your phone to airplane mode or turning it off altogether during the block where you will be working on your biggest priority each day. This will allow for clear thinking, efficient focus, and reduced mental clutter.
When you first start time-blocking, organize your week by scheduling a chunk of time each morning for the big task want to accomplish. This will allow you to feel free to focus on your biggest priority for a few hours every day without distraction, knowing that you have set aside a separate time to check emails, run errands, exercise and spend time with family. Once you have used these time-blocks for a full week, you will be able to see if the amount of time you have set for each item is appropriate and adjust the following week accordingly. Each week, you will be able to block more and more efficiently. Remember, the goal here is to be mindful of where you are spending your time so that you can accomplish more, it doesn't mean that things can not shift and move, it's simply a tool to help you be more intentional with the gift of time. You will fond a free downloadable time-blocking sheet in the resources section. (See the menu above) You can use this tool to get you started this week. Happy Time-blocking.