What If You Just Threw Things Away?
Last month I was on an interesting podcast with Stuart Crawford (see The Orange Files) on Work-Life Balance.
Stuart mentioned that he occasionally declares “email bankruptcy” and deletes all the email in his in-box. And guess what? 99.99% of it no one cares about. People don’t panic. The world keeps spinning.
Too often we assume that something in our in-box is there for a reason and therefore requires some of our attention. But it might be there for NO reason and require none of our attention. You give up some freedom and power when you let someone else decide what you should put your focus on.
I recently moved. Ugh.
I moved from a 2700 square foot house with a three car garage to a 900 square foot apartment. For weeks I was focused on getting out of the old house. So that left me living among piles of boxes at the apartment. When I found a place to sit I was frequently looking up at the top of the pile.
Of course one of the good places to throw stuff is on the counters in the kitchen. So my kitchen was stacked high with boxes and loose junk.
One day I decided to tackle the kitchen. When my daughter came home every counter top was bare except for essentials like the coffee maker. It was truly usable space. She asked me what I did with all the stuff. I said I’d thrown it all away.
She paused a bit. The she said that she knew how much I hated the mess, and that it is very believable to her that I threw it all away. So she asked whether I had thrown it away or found places for everything to live.
Does it matter?
Does it matter whether I have one pitcher or two? Or six?
Does it matter if my shelves are full or empty?
Does it matter if my walls are covered or bare?
Unfortunately for my staff, I sometimes take this attitude to work. If your filing hasn’t been done in six months, I say throw it all away. If you had filed it, what would that matter? So it sits in a box for seven years and then you throw it away. What’s the penalty?
One of my favorite analogies of life is the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Ark of the Covenant is packaged in crate and filed away in a massive warehouse filled with other crates . . . and the message is clear that it will be saved forever and never seen again.
My filing system isn’t like that. Well, it’s not intended to be. When I’m not moving, I am pretty good at finding exactly what I need and never losing things. Part of the reason for that is that I’m also good at just throwing things away.
I always encourage people to prioritize tasks from highest to lowest and work on the highest priority tasks. This is pretty common sense advice. But I go a step further.
When all of your high priority items take up all the time you have for the foreseeable future, delete all your low priority items. Really. You are never going to get to them. Ever. And that’s okay. Stop pretending that you’ll get to them when you know you won’t.
“Stuff” fills our lives. But it doesn’t necessarily fill our lives with goodness and love and happiness. Sometimes it just fills us with “stuff.” If you get rid of the generic stuff you’ll have more room for the goodness and love and happiness.
Just a thought. File under . . . wait, don’t file it at all!