Are You Busting Your Butt When You Should Be Busting Your Clutter?

Written by Virginia Barkley Monday, September 16 2013

Are You Busting Your Butt When You Should Be Busting Your Clutter?When I was a little girl, I didn’t like closed doors because I couldn’t see what was on the other side. I felt overwhelmed by the thought of what may or may not be lurking there. My sister, on the other hand, loved playing in her room. She could play for hours with the door closed because she was focused on what was happening on her side of the door, while I was focused on what may or may not be happening on the side I couldn’t see.

Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated my city and caused a domino effect of implosions in my life, I felt extremely overwhelmed by my perception that a very big door had just shut me out of seeing my future. My mind was cluttered with thoughts of how to help my friends, help my community, help myself.

I had two choices: I could remain bogged down in the drama of my seemingly directionless circumstances, fearing what may or may not be on the other side of the door, or I could take action and change the story on my side of the door.

My usual reaction to being overwhelmed was to jump in and do more to distract myself from the current circumstances.

Busy-ness is a wonderful way to discharge directionless energy, but it takes its toll on our confidence to feel capable of getting anything accomplished. We can be busy without being productive; and we can be productive without being busy.

It was during this distressing time that I realized that my multi-tasking was masking my lack of clarity. Running around in circles was only making me dizzy. If I could decide what direction I wanted my life to take, then I would be better able to disqualify the activities that were not in alignment with helping me get there. I had to create my own North Star. I learned the power of consolidating my thoughts into a compelling vision to dictate which actions I chose to take to move my life in the direction I envisioned.

Are You Busting Your Butt When You Should Be Busting Your Clutter?For me, that compelling vision was helping other people – starting with family and friends – create order out of the chaos that had been thrust upon us. I found that creating physical order also created emotional calm and groundedness to make better choices. My life direction became my filter through which all potential activities would be processed. Could I do this? Should I do this? Must I do this? I focused solely on the latter.

Let’s face it. All of us have endless choices for how to spend our time. While it may not always feel like it, we are doing what we chose to do.

I realized it was high time for me to start with investing in the one thing that is irreplaceable – my time.

I pulled out my calendar and crossed off certain days and times that would be sacred to me.

Today, I use Mondays to get grounded, assess my productivity against my goals and set the rhythm for my week. It’s much easier for me to say no when I see that my calendar is blocked. If we don’t block off time to think, we are setting ourselves up for calendar chaos, which is another form of clutter that clouds our mental clarity.

Start with a 30-minute time slot that will be strictly devoted to grounding yourself in what results you want to see at the end of the week. Give yourself this gift and set a destination for each week during those 30 minutes. I will accomplish three to five things a day…Fifteen items a week…Done…Celebrate…Reset.

Focus on the accomplishments. Realize that there will always be something else to do, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it!

When we do not have a clear vision for what we want to get accomplished, our insecure subconscious keeps throwing ideas, activities and things in front of us to ensure we don’t miss out. The irony of that scenario is that we probably are missing out on opportunities, but they are clouded by all the distractions we’ve scheduled.

Conversely, when we are deliberate in our thoughts about what we must do to achieve our goals – and we separate these priorities from the could dos and should dos – we are on our way to reclaiming our time, sanity and productivity. We all experience the same number of hours per day. It’s the multi-tasking that tricks us into believing that we’re getting a lot done. Yet, we are actually half-tasking 20 items versus honing in on the three most important items we must complete in a day.

I am well aware of the temptation of bright shiny ideas – I’m an entrepreneur. I love ideas! This is the very reason why having a clear direction is critical to being productive.

In an effort to make peace with my subconscious, I create a one-page brain dump with three main categories, and I allow my subconscious to scan it once a week. Then I pick one key item from each category that I will complete within the next five days. Success is not measured by completing 100 percent of the items. Success is measured by sticking to the system and celebrating what is accomplished.

The definition of overwhelm is “to cover or bury completely,” so it’s no mystery why it causes us anxiety. We have lost sight of the calm hidden beneath the clutter.

Einstein proved that everything is energy. Everything. Clutter is just another word for unproductive energy.


One of my favorite things about what I do is taking my clients from being burdened by physical and emotional clutter to feeling lighter, more confident in themselves and their decisions, and more positive about their future.

Women’s lives tend to be complex, but they don’t have to be complicated. What I have learned, and what I love sharing with my clients, is the fact that we all have the to power to let go of the clutter that holds us back – whether that’s personal or professional, home or office.

Who knew that a bitch like Katrina could have been such a wise teacher?

More on living a happier, more productive life:

Sure, technology is great, but it can certainly lead to stimulation overload. Luckily, productivity expert Pam Vaccaro can help you overcome your “Focus Deficit Disorder.”

Sumaya Kazi    internationally recognized, award-winning, young entrepreneur from San Francisco    uses an innovative system she calls “GSD” that might help you maximize your time and power throughout the day.

Wendy Ellin, productivity expert, gives five useful and easy-to-implement strategies for being productive instead of just being busy.

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