Feeling overwhelmed? You are not alone. In a recent report by the Deloitte University press, 65% of executives surveyed said that the “overwhelmed employee” was an urgent or important trend, while 44% said they were not ready to deal with this relatively new phenomenon.

The report went on to detail that information overload, and the always-connected 24/7 work environment, are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, this blog will help you declutter your work and mind. What’s more, if you do it before you go on holiday you’ll be able to take advantage of resting and recharging your batteries and come back to an organised work environment. Ready?

Declutter your work environment

“I can’t focus when there are too many things around. Whenever I used to go to the office, I used to always say, ‘Tidy up.’” – Zaha Hadid

Whether we tend to keep a tidy desk or a messy one, there is nearly always something we can do to achieve more order.

One compelling reason to get more organised is that it’s shown to reduce stress. According to Hellen Buttigieg – TV presenter, author and founder of weorganizeeu.com – disorganised people spend between 10% and 20% of the day looking for items they’ve misplaced.

If you want to save time and feel less stressed, you can try:

  • sorting piles of paper into ‘filing’, ‘bin’ or ‘action’
  • emptying drawers of tatty old pens and pencils you never use
  • filing paperwork which you need to keep
  • scheduling time to go through the paperwork in your action pile

You can also look around the space you occupy and consider taking down or putting up different pictures, lists or other useful documents.

What one thing could you do to right now make your working environment more appealing?

Declutter your to do list

“The inability to delegate is one of the biggest problems I see with managers at all levels.” – Eli Broad

Most of us have a preferred approach to “to do” lists. If you do, and it works, use it! If not, now is the time to try something else. Some options include:

  • A handwritten list
  • Using the tasks section in your calendar (e.g. on Outlook)
  • Creating a spreadsheet
  • Using an app, such as Evernote or Notes

Whatever your preference, it’s time for you to get your current to do list and review it. Firstly, set aside one hour to do this. Put this in your diary so you are making an unbreakable appointment with yourself.

When your appointment time comes around, your first task is to apply the urgent and important rule.

If something is urgent and important give it high priority. If something is neither urgent nor important, cross it off the list or get someone else to do it.

Now it’s time to draw up your new to do list. Create your list in priority order – urgent and important first, and then the other jobs in order of their identified deadline. When your hour is up, you can do your important and urgent tasks and schedule the others for this week, this month or this year.

Declutter your email

“Email is familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s easy to use. But it might just be the biggest killer of time and productivity in the office today.” – Ryan Holmes

Again, finding time to declutter your email means you’ll need to schedule another hour long appointment with yourself.

When decluttering my email, I usually start with the emails that came in a week ago and work forwards until I get to the most recent one. If I have more time I then go back another week and do the same thing, and so on until I have gone back a month (or reached the end of my allotted hour).

I don’t worry about emails that are more than a month old. If they were important then someone will chase me. If they weren’t, then they don’t need my attention!

With each email decide whether to answer it, file it or delete it. If it needs filing or deleting, do it NOW. If it needs answering, can you deal with it within five minutes or does it need more time? If a quick answer will suffice, do it NOW. If not, add it to your to do list and schedule time to do it.

Declutter your mind

“It’s very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

So you’ve improved your working environment and sorted out your to do list and inbox? Great! Hopefully this will have helped you to start clearing your mind and getting mentally more grounded

Need more help?

Here’s a simple five step exercise that may help you declutter your mind right now:

  1. Take a moment to sit back, put your feet flat on the floor and focus on how you are feeling. Are you tense, stressed, under pressure? Allow yourself to wallow in this feeling without feeling guilty.
  2. Now imagine you are a “fly on the wall” looking down at you. It may help to close your eyes when you do this. Literally imagine yourself flying out of your body and up above you. Look down on this person sitting down below.
  3. What do you notice about this person below you? Are they restless, constantly fidgeting; hunched over a computer, or looking anxious and careworn? Look closely and really study how they are feeling – but without getting caught up in their emotions. Remember to stay detached and separate; you are just observing what’s going on.
  4. Now ask yourself how you would like them to be different. How do you want them to feel? When they feel like that, how do they stand or sit. What’s their expression? Again build up a detailed picture of them, and imagine them shifting into this new mindset.
  5. Fly down from the wall and take up residence in your newly reformed body. Adopt your new stance and try on the new feeling. Don’t worry if this feels awkward or unrealistic. Just allow yourself to take 30 seconds to pretend this is how you are.

How did you get on? This technique of tricking ourselves into feeling and behaving differently can be very effective. Our brains are wonderfully ingenious and when we behave as if we feel differently, we often do.

Which decluttering approach appealed most to you?

I’d love to hear how you got on. Email or tweet me to let me know!