Regular readers know I am not a fan of resolutions, at least not those that are inexplicably tied to January 1. Someone please tell me what's magic about that date. Think about it...it is THE worst time to head to a gym, the weather is (usually) crummy for clearing out excess junk, and lots of folks are still paying for the holidays. Who has the mental capacity to start a new, lofty goal like saving more money or losing 15 pounds? Or even the amorphous, "get more organized" (where? in what way? for what purpose?)? Statistics show that only 8% of people who make resolutions actually keep them.*
Still, I have to confess it's a good time to tease out what has been working throughout the year - and what has not. Whether it's the way your kids handle a bedtime routine, or how your team at work is communicating, reflection is a great thing in late December. And reflecting generally leads to, well, setting or adjusting goals. I have been looking over the 2015 calendar and noting the highs and lows. I'm looking into some new endeavors (lots of speaking, creating some "tips and tricks" videos, and...gulp...starting that book?), refining some old ones, and discarding what isn't serving me or my clients. You might even say I've been "de-cluttering" and reorganizing my plans. Is that the same thing as making resolutions?
I've also discovered that with a little planned downtime, I've been drawn to my own physical organizing projects around the house. So far I've cleared out 1/2 of the garage (made possible by the weirdly warm weather), two drawers, and the gift wrapping supplies. Next on my list is the laundry room storage area. It's productive and makes me feel better, but I also like to think it could happen in April, or September, or whenever I make some space in the schedule to putter around with my label maker and bins. It's planned, but not forced. I never call the process a resolution, because to me that makes it seem like a one-time task. It's making changes in, or adding to, existing habits (which are ongoing).
If you ARE compelled to make some New Year's resolutions, that's all good too. But I might make the suggestion that you calendar a day or two 2 months from now, and again 2 months after that (and so on), to check in on yourself. Write everything down (or make notes in your phone), and also note what you need - mentally, physically, or spiritually - to make those resolutions reality. Is the timing right? Does the resolution require support from other people? Have you been specific enough (see "get more organized" above)?
Often, the most disheartening thing for my clients is coming to terms with big plans not carried out. I encourage them to think of organizing not as a resolution, but rather the underpinning for all other goals. Improve your organization, and arrive on time more consistently. Improve your organization, and spend less money on things you don't need. Improve your organization, and enjoy inviting more friends and family over. It all goes hand in hand.
Those kinds of resolutions can be made (and kept) throughout 2016, and beyond.
There's a statistic that's been floating around for a few years that the average American consumes over 100,000 words per day*. Think about that for a moment. That's like reading almost two novels in 24 hours (although I believe "reading" is a fairly fluid term in this case). In addition to the consumption of random information, most of us process about 85 emails a day, plan the logistics of at least three local trips, attend meetings, call and text, do the actual work we're supposed to do to thrive/survive, and respond to all of the promises we optimistically made back when we thought we'd "have more time".
And then there's the holidays.
At this time of the year it's like we can't win in the peaceful, mindfulness department. Here lately, I've been feeling like my brain has been stuffed full in the same way I see my clients' junk drawers - old batteries (still good or used up?), thank you cards never sent, broken pieces to things that will likely never get fixed, and dozens of scribbled notes. Oh, the notes. So many things to remember, buy, check off, respond to, deal with. The other day I headed to the store specifically to pick up stamps. I came home with coffee, paper towels, and yogurt. You guessed it - no stamps. This is my brain on clutter.
I think a disorganized brain can be far more insidious than a disorganized space. For one thing, it's easier to hide (at least to the outside world). It can also be tougher to control with so many "shiny object" bits of information on social media and in the news to take our attention. And worst of all, we don't even realize the clutter is building up until it results in things like insomnia, short tempers, and overall exhaustion. Small wonder we over-eat, over-shop, and make lots of other questionable decisions.
But I do have a few techniques I use to clear things out and open up some space among my jumbled thoughts. Here's what works for me:
1. Meditation. I use the Insight Timer meditation app (https://insighttimer.com/) to get a few clear moments in the morning. The timer keeps me on track, and the vast number of user-rated guided meditations ensures I have a variety of time lengths and techniques to choose from. Depending upon how you set it up, you can get a lovely "Thanks for meditating with me," message from other users around the globe. Affirmation is a good thing.
2. The book Five Good Minutes In The Evening by Jeffrey Brantley, MD and Wendy Millstine, NC was recommended to me by a sleep specialist several years back when my insomnia was at its worst. You have to love a doctor that prescribes a book, right? Part of the "Five Good Minutes" series, this one has 100 very short exercises to help you refocus after a hectic day. Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed and can't sleep, it always does the trick.
3. I do a serious "brain dump" by listing out every single thought that's nagging at me - whether on paper or on a list app like Wunderlist. I don't have to solve or ponder them, I just have to get them out of my head. Getting them down in writing somehow lessens their power over me. When I return to them, most of them don't seem like such a big deal.
4. I believe it was Steve Jobs who said, "Focusing is about saying no." So hey, let's practice that. No, I can't make that party. No, I can't volunteer for the committee. No, we don't need a meeting. No, I can't bring cookies. No, I don't need that __________. Saying no more often, enables me to say yes when it really counts.
5. I pet my dogs. Not just a cursory pat on the head, but for like, more than five minutes. I scratch behind the ears, rub their bellies, appreciate those brown eyes. It's hard to think about other things when you concentrate on your pup, and it's been proven that spending time with pets reduces stress, can lower blood pressure, and keep heart disease at bay. And of course, cat-lovers, it works with felines (and maybe even guinea pigs, ferrets and rabbits too).
So this holiday season, give one or two of these ideas a shot when you're at your wits' end. Or, if you have mind clutter hacks of your own, please share with us in the comments.
Wishing you all a Merry Organized Christmas, and a Happy, Productive New Year!
*Bohn, Roger. How Much Information? 2009 Report on American Consumers. University of California, San Diego.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?