The importance of “decluttering” your life

Published by nedmortimer on

My journalist friend gave me a book for Christmas back in 2017 called Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight. I’m not going to lie, it didn’t really seem my style of literature and I suspected that the gratuitous swearing-based humour (whilst often quite funny!) might actually mask a lack of substance or useful philosophy. It turned out to be an extremely helpful read because it introduced me to a new way of thinking about structure and explained some of the things I’d been doing or telling myself to do in terms of their underlying value.

If I were going to distil the message or purpose of her book into one sentence, it would be this: take control over your time and your goals by removing all the tangible and intangible clutter from you day to day life.

Motivation, organisation, time management, goal setting – these are all ingredients of a happy, fulfilled life; one where you can enjoy yourself in the present, look back on what you’ve done in the past with a sense of pride and feel excited and equipped for the future. There is an overlap between, on the one hand, a need to de-clutter your life so your mind can focus on the important questions and decisions rather than all the mindless noise we get used to, and, on the other hand, my ideas around background anxiety – it’s probably no coincidence that I was reading the book around the same time I was developing my ‘Background Anxiety’ technique (see that post here). In order to look clearly and deeply at your desires, you first need to free your mind up from negative energy, negative actions, unnecessary tasks or time wasting.

We have 168 hours in the week, of which generally no more than 56 go on sleep, leaving maybe 112 waking hours. In order to prioritise your time – i.e. spend it doing the things that matter, than you can look back proudly on – writing songs, playing concerts, connecting with fans – you need to cut out mindless nonsense. In this article, I have drawn out some examples of things you should (or shouldn’t) be doing.

Tip 1 – de-cluttering emails

If you’re one of those people whose Inbox comes with a little number like [2,648 unread] next to it then this is for YOU. No one should EVER have that many unread emails.

If your email inbox serves a purpose, i.e. you receive messages there that need a response, then filling it up with rubbish is only going to make it harder for you to see and action the genuine emails.

(If it serves no purpose then why are you even looking at your inbox…?)

Here are the three steps to de-cluttering your email address

Step 1 – delete all the marketing emails.

This might take a bit of time, but it’s worth it! For each of the companies that have sent you lots of spam emails that you never open, ‘select all’ and delete those emails now! If you haven’t already opened the first fifty emails they sent you’re not going to now. You can go through each large company one by one and delete them all, and you’ll probably find this cuts out 80% of that large number of unread emails.

Step 2 – Unsubscribe

Hopefully you should have much fewer eYou have two choices here.

The best one is to either unsubscribe at the same time you delete all their messages. That way you’ll never hear from them again.

Or, you can wait until their next marketing email comes in and THEN unsubscribe (and delete the email). This is fine, but you just need to promise yourself that you will actually unsubscribe on the first one that comes through, otherwise in a few weeks you’ll end up back where you started

Obviously there are going to be some companies that you still want to hear from and so you don’t have to unsubscribe from anyone… but you still need to be ruthless. If you’re not going to read them then it’s pointless being subscribed

Step 3 – Don’t check your emails

Ok, this is slightly misleading – you shouldn’t check your emails, except at specific times of day that you set out in advance.

For example, you could give yourself two daily email checking time slots: 11am-11.30am and 4pm-4.30pm.

The reason I suggest these particular times is that they give you time to get other work/play done in the morning and afternoon before you look at emails – that way, if anything comes in that needs a response, it won’t distract you from the work you were already meant to be doing.

This bit is not easy, for one simple reason: checking your emails is a classic thing you do when you don’t know what else to do. It’s one of the most common forms of procrastination (like checking the news or going on Facebook).

It takes discipline – whenever you find yourself clicking on your emails outside the ‘checking time’, you have to snatch yourself away again by closing the tab. You’ll get there with practice!

Step 4 – respond to emails immediately

When you check your email at the correct time, you’ll have two types of emails:

1) the emails that take no more than 10 minutes to reply to

2) the email that take LONGER than 10 minutes to reply to

For the first type, always, reply to them straight away. This is what stops you having so many unread emails in the first place and clears space for the new ones to come in (and get responded to straightaway as well).

For the second type, you should block out time in your calendar to reply to them – they’re a specific job like any other. But remember, you shouldn’t take a long time for the hell of it – try to spend as little time writing as possible: only give them the information they actually need and don’t ask questions you can find the answers to yourself. Every open question will just lead to another email or ten, and your inbox deserves better!

Next: onto Part 2: how to de-clutter your finances!


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