We need to come clean. We love the feeling of fresh linen. You know, when you lay your head on a pillow that instantly transports you to a flowery meadow? Oh, the serene sensation of tidiness and order, is there anything better to positively stimulate the senses? So you wake up in the bosom of nature, you make your meadow bed as soon as you get up, and humming a favorite tune, you trot to the kitchen for breakfast.
To start the morning off on the right foot, you washed the dishes the night before so now, with a fresh cup of heavenly coffee in your hands, you can focus on the beautiful spring blooms outside your spotless windows. You smile and take it all in – a tidy life is a good life. And then, like a bolt from the blue, the strategic part of your brain activates and begins to remember.
You were hoping to start doing yoga every morning. Today was supposed to be day one. And you have yet to fill in the first portion of your gratitude journal for today. And you could swear there was something you were meant to do at 9 o’clock but you forgot to put it in your calendar and now it’s a mystery to be solved. The levels of stress begin to rise and the idyll of the morning is no more.
The Entropy of It All
If your productivity planner is bursting at the seams and your habit tracker can’t keep up with you, it’s time for a deep clean of your daily routine. Have you noticed that creative ideas stopped coming even in the shower? Are you following thrice as many accounts on social media as the number of your own followers? Do you feel guilty whenever you take a day off from the gym? Then you might be experiencing productivity and self-improvement overload. Common symptoms include exhaustion, discontent, and disorientation.
With poor management of our healthy habits and professional obligations, chaos and anarchy may easily overtake our sanity. From there, it’s a slippery slope into heaps of unfulfilled commitments and promises both to ourselves and others. Advanced disorder puts what feels like the weight of the world on our shoulders and it can be really hard to make progress when you’re pulled in dozens of different directions.
Thankfully, there’s an antidote to these kinds of situations: minimalism. Reducing what’s on your plate to a bare minimum (at least for the initial stages of our deep-clean) will get you your mojo back.
The KonMari Method
Marie Kondo is an entrepreneur, an expert in decluttering, and a bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever. Marie loves physical mess. It’s because she knows how to deal with it effectively.
When she is asked to restore order in a client’s house, she likes to introduce herself to the space first. She finds a spot, she sits on her heels, closes her eyes, and connects with the house to understand what needs to be done. We know, it sounds a tad metaphysical but is this not mindfulness in its purest form?
After that short mediation, Marie teaches her clients how to tidy by category rather than location. The drill is, we begin with clothes, then we move on to books and papers, miscellaneous items, and finally, objects of sentimental value. Let’s say we’re dealing with our wardrobe. The KonMarie Method is to take all our clothes out and once we have a solid pile in the middle of the room, we start sorting it out according to items that spark joy in us (those we keep) and the ones we can discard.
Maybe you can already see where we’re going with this? Take a moment to reflect on your habits and routines. Reintroduce your reasons for putting them in place at the time when you needed solutions. Now simplify to amplify. Separate your practices into categories and tackle them one at a time. For example, avoid thinking about making adjustments to your morning routine while decluttering your email. Then, once you’re focused on a particular category, look for elements within it that spark joy in you.
Obviously, our career paths will always involve activities that just have to be performed whether we feel motivated to do so or not. But there are changes we can incorporate to make those tasks more bearable. For example, work with your natural rhythm. If you feel more productive in the evenings, talk to your boss about pushing your office hours to the PM portion of the day.
These days it also seems like a bit of a trend to maintain many (so many) healthy habits. If you feel pressured into something that goes against your nature – dispose of that practice. When Marie Kondo decides to discard a particular item, she thanks it for serving her well all this time. Acknowledge your habits and routines the same way as they’ve been put into place to make your life easier and better. But it’s time for some of them to go if they stopped serving their purpose. You might cross paths with them again in the future but for now – thank you all, we bid you farewell.[hr]
A Clean Sweep
As always in minimalism, less is more. Stop keeping yourself busy for the sake of being busy. If you feel overwhelmed by what was supposed to keep you healthy and productive, maintaining the same level of commitment to those practices would only defeat the purpose.
So here’s a controversial idea, why not wipe our habit trackers clean? As in null, nada, zero practices. We don’t always need a plan. Discover the liberty in letting go and just waiting to see what happens. Serendipity needs room to breathe, creativity needs space to thrive, so often art grows out of imperfection. Maybe it’s your time to embrace complete freedom for a change?
If we declutter our daily routine, new practices might come to us of their own volition and in their own time, and we’ll have the perfect conditions to welcome them with open arms into our refreshed to-do lists and reinvigorated habit journals. Less is more.