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Streamlining to Essentials (i.e. Getting Rid of Crap)

So here’s an amazing and insightful revelation: getting rid of crap frees you up for the future.

Seriously, I had no idea how much the growing list of “You Need To/You Haven’t Done” was weighing on my mind. I could spend hours researching the psychological effects of procrastination, but this is really what happened in my brain:

  1. Overwhelmed: All This Stuff needs to get done: taxes, growth plan, watching ICON14 marketing videos, blogposts, married name change, washing dishes, etc.
  2. List: Get it out of my brain and on to paper.
  3. Productivity: Take care of the one thing I think I can handle (dishes).
  4. Depression: These dishes will just get dirty again, and when will I have time to do them?!
  5. Review: Feel discouraged about the list’s length – I should have done this 6 months ago.
  6. Historical Review: why didn’t I do any of this 6 months ago?
  7. Justify: I was busy doing (insert excuse here) months ago.
  8. Tiredness: Take a nap.
  9. Guilt: Didn’t plan anything for dinner.
  10. Outsourcing: Husband makes dinner (being kind).
  11. Guilt: I’m not doing my job as a wife.
  12. Avoidance: Everything on the list will take hours to do – I put it out of sight.
  13. Procrastination: List sits in a pile of undone stuff.
  14. Monday: Make another list, cross off 1 or 2 things, add 5.

So on it went. Eventually, I lost out on at least $1,500 worth of revenue and took off about 6 weeks, cleaning up the crap that had built up over the days and weeks and years of “I’ll do it later”. Think about a house that has only been cleaned in the major traffic areas – no spring cleaning – and how long that would take to clean up. Yeah, not a pretty sight. In the modern world, this means paperwork, paperwork…..and MORE paperwork.

MORE Lembas Bread

So without reading the celebrated behavioral therapist’s book, End Procrastination Now!, I did basically the same approach:

  • Cognitive – See how your brain got you in trouble and actively stop thinking the thoughts that got you to this bad state.
  • Emotive – Accept the reality of Guilt/Anger Days, and write down why/when your emotions spin out of control.
  • Behavioral – Stop blaming other people/situations/the government, and get down to brass tacks: pitching the unhelpful crap.

For instance, I have stacks of books. That’s kind of okay, because I’m a writer and editor. Actually, it’s terrible, because I read the titles more than I read the actual insides. ‘Some day’, I think, ‘this will be a valuable addition to my novel/best-selling autobiography’. Since that hasn’t happened yet, I finally culled about 2 boxes of books. I shut my eyes and the hoarding pleas of my brain (“they may come in useful someday!”), told my brain that Kindle will grow and so will libraries, and just …. gave them away.

Book Pile

Now that I’m through the worst backlog of crap, including lost product orders and a renewed passport, a great weight has lifted. I’m getting creative ideas, I feel like I have a future, and I actually want to do work. I’m even adding on horseback riding lessons to my schedule, and catching up with friends I haven’t seen since college, because it’s been on my Back of Mind list for years. These are not business goals, but personal goals are a big part of living a life that’s worthwhile.

Horses

There were consequences for taking off 6 weeks. I still have to do my 2014 taxes (but at least I’m not 3 years behind). I did some work for free, just to keep my clients. There’s only so long that I could use the Death/Illness in the Family reason for not getting around to doing things. (Yes, this did happen – twice. The year is not yet half-over.) I had to pay for a lot of other cleanup; the IRS is quite accurate their label of “depreciating assets” (laptops and cars) that deteriorate over time.

“On to the next item [on the list]!” is my rallying cry to myself. If I get into a habit of doing this, day after day after day, I just might be able to afford some employees or sub-contractors, so that I don’t have to do everything in my micro-business.

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