A full agenda and to-do lists, lots of options and numerous daily incentives make it quite difficult to create a little more order in our lives. So how do we manage things better?
More order in your mind
A more organized life begins with the mind. But how can we ensure that our minds are more organized with all the stimuli that we receive throughout the day? One requires a to-do list; another demands just the opposite.
Dutch author and vlogger Jelle Hermus is in favor of ‘de-choring’: “It only takes a minute to come up with a chore,” he says, “but getting it checked off is another matter entirely. A quick notation in your to-do list can easily mean a month’s worth of work.” The annoying thing is that once we commit a task to paper, it becomes a serious intention. If we don’t do anything about it, it starts to gnaw at us. After all, we made an agreement with ourselves that we are not meeting. But by de-choring ourselves, we create space in our schedules and in our minds.
Is this then a call to end the to-do list? Not necessarily, says Dutch occupational psychologist Margôt van Stee. ”A list is a good tool for not forgetting things and just letting them go, but it is not a goal in and of itself,” she says. “If lists stress you out, ask yourself if they are actually even helpful. After all, lists mean adding yet another thing to your pile. The list itself, with all its unfinished tasks, continues to gnaw at you.” Van Stee believes lists can be fairly helpful, yet adds, “Just writing things down randomly underneath each other can actually make us feel agitated. This puts the brain in a constant state of readiness, as if you have a permanent deadline to meet. Figure out how important and urgent tasks are and schedule time for them.” See what works best for you to create a better overview without causing stress.
If you like to keep track of your tasks, but don’t like the endless scraps of paper that are lying around all over the place, then a Bullet Journal may be just the thing for you in your quest for a clearer mind. A Bullet Journal (or, BuJo) is an agenda, diary and to-do list in one. It is not a digital cure-all, but a method to organize tasks, appointments, deadlines and thoughts in a notebook. With just pen and paper. Or as Lona Aalders of the (Dutch-only) book Bullet Journaling explains: “On the one hand, it’s an agenda for future appointments; on the other, it offers space for thoughts, ideas and moments of reflection that you want to be able to write down at any time of the day.”
What’s also worth knowing is that this notebook is not an extra book to add to what you already have: it replaces them all if you want. A BuJo is not therefore intended purely for your to-do list, but it is there to help create more order in all your thoughts, wishes, plans and tasks for the short- and long-term. If you’d like to find out more about the BuJo concept, there are plenty of websites that write about keeping such a journal.
Do away with your worries
We worry a lot without even realizing we do. And if we worry less, then we will automatically be making more room in our minds. Not exactly rocket science there, but actually putting this simple concept into practice is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Having a ‘worry quarter-hour’ may help though – 15 minutes in which you look at all your worries consciously. This method helps you structure your worries and stops you being hounded by negative thoughts all day long. Schedule in two of these ‘worry quarter-hours’ a day, and be sure to keep an eye on the time when you do them.
If this doesn’t help remove those negative thoughts, go for a walk (a long one or even just round the block), do some exercise, or catch up on some household chores. According to research carried out by the University of Illinois in the US, physical movement leads to different perspectives, which means you may be able to find a solution to your problems through such activities as you might see things in a different light or simply be able to shake your worries off.
Making decisions and choices also gives you more peace and space. According to British business psychologist and author of Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much, Tony Crabbe, we simply have to make difficult choices and that this also means that we can’t do everything. What’s more, the things that you really care about—spending time with your children, seeing your friends more often or actually writing that book—are not on a to-do list. “If such a list is your guideline, you’re not necessarily doing what you think is most important.” How often do people say, ‘If I have more time, I’m going to play tennis / learn Arabic / keep bees / buy a sailboat’ and then never actually get around to it? Crabbe’s advice? Just do it. Now, not ‘soon’.
More order in your house
If your house is a mess, then it can feel chaotic in your mind too. Decluttering, therefore, can be a good solution: remove the things in your house that you hardly use or that are no longer needed. Sounds great—but where do you start? Astrid, Flow’s creative director, spent a year decluttering and has plenty of handy tips on how to start decluttering. Stop moving things around, for example. “Many people don’t tidy, but simply shift and move things around,” says Astrid. “But, tidying up means: completing the task and putting everything in its rightful place: either the shelf or the cupboard where it belongs. Or the garbage bag. There’s no place in between.”
Getting rid of things becomes a lot easier if you can let go of the emotions that go with each item bit by bit. “According to Zen Buddhism, if you are very attached to your belongings, then you are unfree,” says Dutch philosopher Michel Dijkstra. “You have to learn to let go and live freely and openly. Life is a succession of transient moments. Only when you accept that, can you really be free. And only if you create a bit of distance from the past and accept that it has been, possessions will no longer have an emotional impact and it will be easier to let them go.”
- You can read more in Flow and Workman’s The Big Book of Less: Finding Joy in Living Lighter, which will be available as of April 2 on our web shop (while stocks last) and book stores across the US.
Text / source Anneke Bots Photography Ahmad Kadhim / Unsplash.com