There are many different ways to lead into the topic of 'engagement' and what I mean by this term, so to clarify what I am talking about let me say that this term refers to what has got your attention at any given time and whether or not it is the correct time for it to have your attention.
Last night I attending a networking meeting and at one point someone asked me what I thought about clutter sucking up energy, and if there was anything to this. An interesting question indeed. I have to admit that I personally am not a believer in the supernatural or metaphysical claims, yet truth be told...
‘YES’, clutter can and will suck up your energy,
and here’s the real reasons why!
It comes down to weather or not you are appropriately engaged with all the ‘stuff’ that surrounds you. That includes all the paperwork, emails, tasks and even belongings.
No matter what ‘stuff’ we are talking about, things you must do today, things you must do two months from now, the things you must clean, put away, shop for, etc…
If all this ‘stuff’ does not have a proper home (a place) in your system, if it’s being left in view just so you won’t forget about it, or maybe you haven’t defined it’s ‘home’ just yet, then indeed it is sucking up your valuable energy.
For example, I have a list of changes I must make to a resource file of mine. It’s important and must be done sometime in the next couple of months preferably, yet not today. I don’t want to forget about it, and I want to be reminded of it only when it is ‘appropriate’ for me to be engaged with it, and not a moment before. If I were to leave it in my view as a way to not forget about it, then it must remain in competition with the other 1000+ things I must do sometime between today and the end of Fall.
Essentially leaving it in view, with everything else, means I run the risk of all my ‘stuff’ (Urgent and not so urgent) consuming my attention constantly, with equal weight regardless of deadline or priority.
Well at least until it all starts to blend and become what I call ‘white noise’. That’s the point at which everything in view sucks up all the energy and focus available so that I cannot focus on what is important right now any longer.
So you may be asking..."What works and how do you stay ‘Appropriately Engaged’ with everything all at once?"
The Simple Answer: By putting things into a system you trust and by making sure everything that is important to you has a proper home.
And here's how...
Scan what’s on your mind 'to-do'. All of it! Then look around and gather everything that is out of place as well. List all your 'outstandings'. Preferably list all these individual tasks on separate pieces of paper, so they can be easily sorted by priority and deadline in the next stage. (If you’re a 'tech savvy person', use a good list manager like Evernote to stay on top of tasks.)
Clarify your next action, where it belongs, and put things where they belong now!
Appointments in your calendar, kids toys away to the toy bin, urgent calls to your ‘call list’, and the things that represent tasks you might do when you’re bored to your ‘someday/maybe’ file. Use your ‘Tickler file’ for all the tasks that are date specific as well.
The Tickler file is a great way to essentially 'mail yourself' something to look at on a future date, knowing you won’t forget about it and will see it when it’s ‘appropriate’ to act on it.
This is for the 'Actionable' stuff on your list you need to schedule into the future...
Be sure to review your task list regularly and when new stuff comes in, deal with finding it a home right away. I guarantee that anyone in the habit of ‘I’ll just leave it there for now’ will find piles quickly building up around them. It’s like building debt. Debt of any kind is still debt. Eventually you have to ‘pay the piper’ when the bill comes due, with interest!
My policy is it's better to pay cash, and get things out of the way right away and avoid the insurmountable piles that will follow if things get left undecided for too long.
Oh yes, one last thing...
Get to work and avoid distractions!
Ok, I know that sounds tough, but really that’s what it comes down too, period. There are no magic answers or push button technology that is going to get anyone off the hook for actually doing (or effectively delegating) what must be done.
The trick here is to be careful of what you say yes to, and what you bring into your space. Nothing is free and everything you say yes too, means something you say no too.
Be selective for best results.
If you liked this article you may also enjoy some of my related articles:
Backburner on Overdrive
When Low Priority takes Precedence over High Priority