So with my “Getting things done (not)” as the background, I write about how “clutter” affects me.

Like our hero in this April 17th 2008 post, in the process of doing one task I find myself distracted by another. Does this happen to you? On the way to look for a folder or file, I notice that the apt is untidy, or there is a bill that needs to be paid yesterday, or there is the business card of someone that I need to call, or I see a book on the sofa that I promised myself to finish by the weekend.

Most times I would react to the distraction, which often would lead to another distraction and I would find myself feeling overwhelmed, doing a lot of “stuff” and yet, by the end of the day, not making any meaningful progress towards any of the things that really matter. This I notice is what “clutter” in my physical environment does to me.

Clutter in your physical surroundings could well be an indication of what your mind is like. For me I see scary parallels. For example, I notice my habit to not make decisions with the physical stuff around me. I would leave things on the table, desk, credenza to be negotiated with at some other time …just not now. This reflects what often goes on in my head. I tend to leave stuff ruminating around in there to confront me at the most inopportune times, particularly when I’m in the middle of doing something else.

Presto! Here’s a great recipe for overwhelm. Here’s one of those killer habits that have a profound influence on the quality of my life … every day!

I also notice that having a cluttered workspace means that I have to work around the clutter. It manages me. It is difficult to remain on track with one task without being distracted by something in the clutter that is not yet done.

So where to begin?

One thing at a time my friend. But really: develop a practice of focusing on one thing at a time. Make a game of it by going for the small victories. I find that focusing on one thing and getting that done does two things for me. First it builds a culture of winning, especially when you make a game of the (small things first) that you focus on. And second, I find that I am slowly putting my world and my mind in order.

Now for this to remain a victory you’ll find that you must develop a system to keep the order in place. Remember winning in life is about the practices you follow in life. Nothing stays in place without energy to keep it there. Good systems are the inanimate team players (robots) in your life that free your mind to focus on the fun creative stuff. Developing and improving your systems create the space for you to focus on what’s really important to you.

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.