What’s keeping you back from achieving a healthy Work / Life Balance? For many people it’s too much clutter • physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual junk. Clutter is like sandbag ballast for a hot air balloon. If you have too much, you never get off the ground. If you have too little, you’ll sail out of control. Clearing clutter may sound like an impossible, overwhelming, or scary proposition. But this Provision breaks the project down into small, manageable bites. Enjoy!
One of my favourite movies is the exciting journey described in Jules Verne’s story Around the World in 80 Days. This year is the 100th anniversary of Jules Verne’s passing in 1905. It reminds me of an important skill we can employ to achieve our ideal Work / Life Balance as we continue our own journey on this subject.
Around the World in 80 Days is the wonderful story of Phileas Fogg, an English gentleman, who bets •20,000 that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Fogg and his servant, Passepourtout, set off in a hot air balloon, the fastest and most exciting form of travel in 1872. On their journey, Fogg and Passepourtout make narrow escapes in their balloon. At one point, they must quickly discard as much sandbag ballast as possible to escape being trapped. Balancing their ballast is the difference between being stuck and achieving their goal of getting home in 80 days.
Learning to balance our own ballast gets us moving toward our ideal Work / Life Balance. In unburdening ourselves of unnecessary weight and cargo, we give ourselves the room and resources to rise to our goals. A common term for this today is Clearing Clutter. Too much ballast and clutter can weigh down our Work / Life Balance.
Clearing clutter allows room for new things. We have talked about naming our claim, and getting the things we want, now we must prepare for the things we want. Clutter or unwanted ballast can be Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual.
In the course of our busy lives many of our personal tasks, responsibilities, goals and aspirations are placed on the backburner. These things turn into clutter and unfinished business that weighs us down. The longer unfinished business hangs around, the heavier it weighs us down.
For example, Physical clutter might be something we need to throw out, tidy up, repair, or replace. Imagine the inside of your wardrobe. Trying to fit new clothes in without removing old clothes eventually becomes impossible.
Clearing clutter is more than the freeing up of physical room in our lives. It will free up emotional, mental, and even spiritual room. We may need to let go of some things. We might refuse to accept another person’s expectations of us that we are not obligated to accept. We might discard some of our own beliefs like believing we can’t do something when in fact we can, or believing we can do everything when in fact we can’t. One thing is certain • clutter does not go away by itself.
Having unfinished business and clutter in our lives can cause us confusion, making it difficult to think clearly at times. It can drain our energy and keep us locked in the past with no room for new things to enter our lives. All of these symptoms make it hard for us to achieve our ideal Work / Life Balance.
Clearing our clutter can energise us tremendously. Our sense of balance noticeably increases each time we clear clutter. There are two things we can do to clear clutter. We can either deal with it or genuinely let it go. If we have physical clutter, we may need to fix it or toss it. If we have emotional clutter we may need to take positive actions or let it go. Letting it go is a form of accepting what ‘is’ and moving on. We are successful if we can honestly say our clutter no longer weighs us down.
When dealing with the clutter in our lives, sometimes we can do it on our own and sometimes we will need help. We may need the help of a friend, a doctor, a coach, a tradesperson, or someone else who can help. Either way our job is to deal with it to free ourselves up to balance our passion, energy and enjoyment.
Dealing with clutter can sometimes be uncomfortable or even scary. If we find ourselves having trouble, we might be stuck on the memories that our clutter represents. Perhaps the clutter reminds us of happy times with people or places in our life. It can be difficult to release keepsakes, but our memories are not in the clutter they are within us. Clearing clutter can give us a sense of loosing something. It can feel like a mini death.
Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios reflected on death during his Commencement address to students at Stanford University on June 12, 2005. After being diagnosed with incurable cancer, he was told by his Doctor to go straight home and “get his affairs in order”, Steve Jobs interpreted this as to go home and say goodbye to his wife and children. After doing that, he was later re-diagnosed with a rare and, thankfully, curable form of cancer. He put his frightening experience into the following context.
Steve Jobs’ exact words were: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose•No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new•Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma • which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
So we don’t need to fear the death of our clutter. We can spring the trap open at any time to increase our confidence, energy and balance. An easy way to identify clutter in all areas of our lives is to ask ourselves, “What am I tolerating or putting up with right now?”
Clutter is not, however, every undesirable thing in your life. Fear of action is clutter, but the action itself is not clutter. Being unable to deal with a particular responsibility is clutter, but the responsibility itself is not clutter unless it is someone else’s expectation that you are not obligated to accept. Knowing the difference is important.
Be careful not to confuse genuine responsibilities with clutter and ballast. Everyone has responsibilities • men, women and even children. No one is exempt. We have responsibilities to ourselves and to others. Whether we recognise them or not, they are part of our life. Before you start to discard ballast, remember that ballast also provides stability. Without the right amount of ballast, hot air balloons would drift aimlessly.
Balance is knowing how much to discard and how much to keep. Clearing too little will not free up our balloon. Clearing too much will destabilise our balloon, possibly risking our safety. After discarding unwanted ballast, we may want to bring onboard new ballast such as balancing working late with going home early occasionally; or removing a responsibility that we really don’t have to take on and replacing it with something more important to us.
How do you get started balancing your ballast?
An easy way to start balancing your ballast is to start small. Deal with a small issue or discard something of less value or size. Take some time back for you today, or perhaps spend a few minutes taking care of something that is bugging you. What things have you been meaning to take care of?
Choose something you can do today or tonight. Spend 15 or 20 minutes on it. Maybe it is calling the plumber at last. Perhaps clearing out some old clothes, tidying your desk, finally making that appointment to see the doctor, taking a class, or calling someone you really need to reconnect with. It might be challenging to take this action, but try it and be the judge of how worthwhile it is for your Work / Life balance and happiness.
Here are some things to remember as you practice. Firstly, you don’t have to complete a task in one attempt. Thinking like this can be overwhelming and can stop us from even starting. Strangely, 100% of tasks that don’t get started, fail to get finished! Another way to start is to lose your To-Do list. Yes, lose it. Nothing on my to-do list ever got done because my calendar was always too full already.
Grab your calendar and transfer your to-do items onto it today. When the day and time comes, start on your to-do item by doing the first thing or taking the first step. Set a timer for 15, 30 or 60 minutes and if you don’t get finished, just write it on your calendar for another day.
As you begin to balance your ballast, your passion, energy, and enjoyment will increase in other areas of your life and you will feel a greater sense of Work / Life Balance • But don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself. Grab your calendar. Start small. Start now.
Coaching Inquiries: What ballast could you clear now to lighten your load and free yourself up to achieve your ideal balance? What habits, issues and clutter could you clear or replace with better ones? What new things would you like to bring in as ballast? Who could help you? Where could you make a start?
This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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