Every now and then, a guy like me, Mr. Inbox Zero, suddenly wakes up to find he has way too much going on and too much clutter in his life. And that “clutter” can be on my desk, in my car, in my bedroom, my garage, my yard, but most of all, in my head.

Clutter creeps up on you, little by little, and you don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. Keeping on top of it, daily, and making the effort, daily, is really the only way to manage it …but who does that?

Next thing you know you wake up and the trunk of your car has so much stuff in it, it looks like you’re packed for vacation, your garage has so many bikes and toys laying around, you can’t pull your car in there, you can’t see your countertop in your kitchen, and your to-do list at work looks like something you’re laying out to finish before the end of the year, and not the end of the day.

Here’s what I’m doing. Attacking the clutter as if it were my job. Why? Because when you think about it, it is my job. If I keep my sanity, and keep control, my performance in all aspects of life will improve.

Seems silly, but I’m going to start “un-subscribing” from the dozens of emails I’ve opted in to receive. I’m going to take 15-minutes each Thursday, on the eve of trash day, and just get rid of stuff in my garage and on the shelves I haven’t looked at or thought about in more than a year. Then I’ll do the same with my bookshelf.

When you have clutter, you can’t help but have a cluttered mind and it leads to stress, anxiety, and worry. Your brain can only hold about 7 or 8 things in it at a time, and it performs best when you’re limiting it to 2 or 3 things and not trying to multi-task.

Multi-tasking, by the way, is a myth. You can’t actually multi-task in your mind and you can barely do it with trivial tasks. Seriously, try cooking while talking on the phone. Tell me if at some point you don’t ask the person you’re speaking with to repeat what they just said or if your meal doesn’t come out too salty because you added salt twice.

So, today …while doing my daily tasks, I’m going to ask myself a few questions with everything I touch. Is this clutter? Do I need it, now? Will I need it, ever? And if I throw it away, will I miss it and not be able to ever get it back should I someday be asked for it? Heck, and even if it is irreplaceable, I’m going to consider taking a picture or scanning whatever it is.

It goes back to the simple “touch everything only once” philosophy. Either file it, act on it, or throw it away. Don’t move it from one spot on  your desk to another. Same with household clutter. Pick it up and put it away or throw it away. No other option. Like my Mom used to say …when you see something out of place, put it away. Because the next time you see it, it won’t look so out of place. The third time you see it, it belongs there.

Good luck. Tomorrow I’ll revisit my Mid-Year Resolutions.

Follow me at @donkowalewski.

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