Ever feel like you’re drowning in a sea of “stuff”? Too many places to go, things to do, people to see? If we’re to find the time, energy and resources necessary to pursue our dreams and accomplish our goals, then we need to live efficiently and manage our time wisely. The first step, as we previously discussed, is to get organized — your home, your kitchen, your office, your desk or creative space.
But your organization shouldn’t be confined to physical spaces. For instance: organize your finances, and you’ll spend less time wondering which bills are due when, and whether or not you’ve already paid them. Result: less stress, no surprises, more time and energy to pursue goals. “…God is not the author of confusion, but of peace….” (1 Corinthians 14: 33 KJV)
Just as organization is key to good time-management, there are several actions we can take that are essential to getting organized. One of the most important is to eliminate anything that’s cluttering our desks, our homes, our lives. Because clutter can impede the ability to think clearly and work efficiently.
Clutter is a huge problem for just about everyone. And the first step to solving any problem is to identify where and what that problem is. Clutter can be defined as an excessive amount of “any thing” — but especially of unneeded “stuff” or stuff that’s not unnecessary for a given task — which is present in a crowded or untidy fashion, or located in an inappropriate place. For example, a mechanic’s tools, although extremely useful and certainly not a problem when properly arranged and stored in a tool chest, become clutter when spread haphazardly around the garage.
To further identify the problem of clutter, we’ll list four categories. These groupings aren’t intended to be definitive. (They tend to overlap; and you may be able to identify other areas of clutter.) However, simply for the purpose of illustration … and organization … we created these categories:
1. Physical Clutter; 2. Temporal Clutter; 3. Social Clutter; and 4. Emotional Clutter.
1. Physical Clutter should be obvious: an excessive number of objects littering your surroundings: a mess of a desk; an overstuffed office; a house that’s a horror, etc.
You can accomplish more in less time, IF you’re not continually shuffling through drawers, files, stacks of papers; looking for whatever it is you need in order to get something done. Think about a cook in a disorganized kitchen, where the drawers are a jumbled mess, dishes are piled on the counter, etc. In the course of trying to prepare a meal, the poor cook will be digging for the right utensils, pushing pots out of the way to free up work space, and running back and forth while accomplishing very little.
2. Temporal Clutter is trying to do too much with too little time: too many goals, too many errands, too many trips — too many pastimes (ouch).
- Simplify your schedule (and life): chances are, you have too many activities planned for too little time. Come on, do you really think you can do everything? You can only accomplish so much in a day, a year, a life. Decide what’s most important — like achieving your goals — and limit your other activities. No, don’t become obsessed, but realize your time and energy are precious, and cut the clutter from these other areas:
- Reduce your recreations: Sports, hobbies, TV, video games, interests, etc. If you go jogging everyday, followed by a few rounds of golf or a game of tennis with a friend, you’ll have far less time and energy to accomplish your goals. Leisure time and light distractions are good for our mental health, and hobbies are fun, but we need to limit how many pastimes we have and how often we indulge in them, if we intend to get anything else done. For instance, TV and theatrical movies are entertaining, but trying to keep up with over a dozen weekly shows and take in every new movie could be the death of your dreams.
- Order your objectives: Do you want to be a jack of all trades but the master of none? We may have oodles of interests, gobs of goals, and dozens of dreams. However, we need to choose a few and shelve the rest (at least for the time being). No one can be in two places at once, and few of us can attain greatness in more than one arena. So decide which is it going to be: the next great singer, actor, writer, artist, inventor, entrepreneur, teacher, missionary, pastor … (just fill in the blank) … or: the dude with the best physique; the gal with the most Tupperware prizes; the lady who throws the most elaborate parties; the guy with the coolest shot glass collection. Don’t allow trivial pursuits and asinine ambitions to clutter the path to what you want to achieve most in life — and to what’s most important. (We’ll discuss this more, in “Stay Focused”)
3. Social Clutter. Uh, let’s be clear: we love to socialize! And we NEED fellowship! Ahem. But too much socializing can clutter your life to the point where you’ll never accomplish your goals. Too much of a good thing is … well, too much! Too many get-togethers, too many phone chats, too many … friends. (Allow us to explain.)
Relationships are vital, but you can actually have too many “friends”! King Solomon writes in Proverbs, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin.” (Pr 18:24 NAS) This may sound sacrilegious, but all meaningful relationships require time, energy, and commitment. “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” so lots of friends eventually equates to lots of needs. After all, friends need time to get together, socialize, catch up, and vent. But how many hours are there in a week — AFTER you subtract work and family responsibilities? Not enough, right?
Limit your friends to a few and you’ll also reduce your number of social obligations. Now, this doesn’t mean you can stop being friendly! Jesus Christ is our example. When He walked the earth He was friendly to everyone — but He had only a handful of close “friends.”
Limiting your social connections will free you from having to attend too many social events, which cuts the temporal clutter. (As we stated, these categories do tend to overlap.)
Social clutter, by the way, can also apply to social media. You can have too many friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter, and other websites intended to keep you connected. Viewing endless pet photos and goofy videos posted by dozens of people, or pausing throughout the day to read what these “twits” ate for lunch or saw on TV, is distracting and time-consuming.
Conversely, if you’re spending hours posting your own junk on the Internet, you may want to consider cutting this clutter from your day. Computers are indeed time-machines, but they can’t transport you to that unfulfilled dream waiting in your future.
4. Emotional Clutter.
Do you have hurts, fears, and disappointments cluttering your thoughts? If so, cut the clutter! We actually discussed eliminating these negative and toxic emotions in the lessons on “Manage Your Mind.” But as a reminder, we once again point out that your thought life should be ordered by the Lord: “Oh, the joys of those who … delight in the [Word] of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. …And they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm 1:1-3 NLT)
Damaged emotions and toxic thoughts will distract you from more important, and Godly, matters. So, cut the emotional clutter by forgiving those who have hurt and wronged you. Dump your toxic feelings toward these people and move forward. Your mind (and heart) should be preoccupied with positive, can-do thoughts that facilitate your creative efforts and bring you closer to your goals. You never want to have to sift through your emotional clutter to find (remember) your hopes and dreams.
In summary: Want to accomplish more? Then manage your time wisely, by getting organized. One key to organization is to cut the clutter — from your schedule, finances, hobbies and interests, as well as your relationships. Too much “stuff,” too many “friends,” too many interests, too many directions — can leave you confused and dazed, with no time or energy for your dreams and creative pursuits.
“…Martha was distracted with all her preparations; …But the Lord … said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary….” (Luke 10:40-42 NASB)