Mess is not really the issue; it's our ability to tolerate mess that's the problem.
Are rituals part of your life? Maybe you'd like to better understand what I'm asking before you commit to an answer. In my way of thinking, a ritual is a prescribed or established rite, ceremony, proceeding, or service. Lots of things that happen in religious establishments qualify as rituals too, but that's not specifically what I'm talking about here.
During a recent coaching call we were exploring the ways I could restart some habits. It was suggested that the use of ritual might help. The conversation took some interesting twists and turns, and I got intrigued with this concept of ritual helping make and break habits. It would be useful for me if I could figure out how to make it work.
Personally, I think rituals are fun. Energizing, even! They add depth and breadth to any number of activities, from trivial to important. For example, Wayne Dyer had a ritual of giving thanks three times as he arose each morning. Boulder, Colorado, used to have a ritual of the world's shortest St. Patrick's Day parade in front of the only Irish bar in town at the time; the green semi-truck that was part of the parade was longer than the parade route.
You may participate in some rituals yourself, like tailgate parties before (during and after too?) football games, class reunions, Mardi Gras, the Tooth Fairy, brushing your teeth before bed, Cinco de Mayo, the girls' or boys' night out, and reading or saying prayers before bed - you get the idea, and can most likely expand on this list.
You may be wondering about now, how can ritual help with creating or breaking habits? In some ways, a ritual is a habit. From that perspective, it comes about because it has importance to you.
To start with, let me point out my client was de-energized by some of the missing habits that formerly were enjoyed. And disgusted by habits that had snuck in.
When I used to wear contacts my morning ritual was to get dressed, comb my hair, put my contacts in, and brush my teeth. When I quit wearing contacts my toothbrushing habit suffered. The ritual was broken, and days of fuzzy teeth ensued. Ick! It became vital to me to find a way to get that done so I could stand being with myself. Leaving the toothbrush and tooth powder out at night triggered me to use them in the morning. Ta da! Then, when I wanted to start stretching every morning, I chained that desired new habit to the trigger of brushing my teeth. My morning ritual is entrenched now, and I love it!
Adopt a similar thought pattern to start the new habits: start with a ritual that was already in place - going to morning prayer. That would be the trigger for a new habit - walking for thirty minutes afterward. Chaining to that triggered-event was the habit of going to the organic green grocer on the way home to buy fresh produce for lunch and/or dinner. After those three activities were finished, going to the office to tackle the first task of the day, the one that took the most concentration, focus, and fresh brain was next. Hence, a new ritual was born - comprised of four activities.
You can do the same thing with habits you want to form. Use anchors, triggers, and chains of activities.
Then how can ritual be used to break habits? First, what is the habit you want to break and why do you want to break it? Those are important questions to answer before figuring out how to use the concept of ritual to help you drop that habit. What I'm asking is, do you really want to break the habit - or do you just think you should, or someone told you that you should.
OK, do you have the answer to those questions yet? Now, what activity, thought, or behavior happens just before or after the habit you're thinking about breaking? Let's say, for this exercise, that you have three chained events. Presuming those are desirable events, think about what habit can you substitute for the undesirable habit. When the first event happens, replace the second event with the new and desirable event, and then connect the third event to the new one.
Or, if you don't have a habit you want to substitute, here's a suggestion of how to remove it. Consciously break the chain of events so you can remove the middle event (the bad habit), and then connect the first and third events into a new chain. That lets the first event in the chain quit acting as a trigger for the second event, and instead trigger the original third event. The original third event is now the second event. Follow that?
It's like fixing the backyard swing by removing the bad link. The swingset I had as a kid had chains, not ropes, to connect the swing seat to the swingset frame, making that analogy easy for me.
You have now created a new ritual that supports the habits you want in your life. Cool, huh.
Taking control of your life by introducing new, desirable-to-you habits, or old, undesirable-to-you habits energizes you. There are lots of wins in this concept. I hope you'll play with it to make it work for you too.
Kit Cassingham is the Chief Energizing Officer at LIFE (Live In Focused Energy). She's been coaching professionals in energizing their lives for vitality, productivity, alertness, and satisfaction since 1989. Kit lives an energized life, and continuously looks for ways to help improve that lifestyle for herself and others.
Take control of your life through your attitude, health habits, and energizing habits. Kit's LIFE coaching is the answer to help you create the productive and energetic life you aspire to, and to help you age gracefully. https://www.LiveInFocusedEnergy.com is the doorway to that life.
If you're trying to organize your mind to reduce decision fatigue and information overload, then you need to make sure that you organize the space around you.
In many ways, our spaces are a reflection of the state of our mind - but actually the correlation works both ways and if you have a cluttered desk or home, it will make your mind more cluttered too.
When it comes to spaces that contain a lot of information and items, your desk is one of the most pressing areas for organization. Let's take a look at some things you can do to make your desk better organized.
#1 Throw Things Out
This is really how you start making any space more organized - you throw out anything that isn't 100% necessary. If it's a decorative item, then ask yourself if it really fills you with long-term fulfillment.
If not? Bin it! Otherwise, ask yourself when the last time you used it was and whether you really cannot survive without it.
The same goes for that drawer that's full of stationary. Do you really need that much stationary? Could that space not be much better used for other things?
#2 Create a System That Reflects Your Brain
Another tip is to create systems that you can use to keep your documents in order. And a great way to get inspiration for this is to look at the way our brains store information.
Specifically, our brains have three main 'compartments' for storing information. These are:
Working Memory - which is the information we're currently working with and doesn't necessarily need to be stored.
Short Term Memory - which is the information we hold for a few days. If it doesn't get used enough it will be thrown out, if it is important, it will be stored in long-term memory.
Long Term Memory - which is the information that we have stored permanently. Nothing gets destroyed here but access can become more difficult without practice.
So how do you create something similar to this?
Simple: you make one space for each type of information.
Your 'working memory' could be your noticeboard and desk itself. This is where you keep anything that you're currently working on and need immediate access to.
Not using it anymore? Then it goes into short-term storage - somewhere like a paper tray.
Then, at the end of each week, go through your short-term storage and move anything important to your 'long term storage' and throw out the rest. That's how you create a much more organized desk and mind.
By the way, Keye Wu is on a mission to transform 1 million guys into the most productive, masculine and purposeful men. If you REALLY do not know the 5 Little Known Ways To Double Your Productivity For Men yet, we need to fix that. Join hundreds of other men already using it right now FREE in my value-packed productivity blog here. Alternatively, check out one of my most popular flowstate video here.
In the movie "He's Just Not That Into You," Drew Barrymore has a dialogue to this effect: And now, you have to go through all this just to get rejected by seven different technologies - it is exhausting!
This reflects the time we live in. Information age - Age of Internet, emails, cell phones with ever-increasing features! Information Overload or Infomania has Dictionary definition: a continual and excessive quest for acquiring and disseminating knowledge and information.
As per Wikipedia: Infomania is the debilitating state of information overload, caused by the combination of a backlog of information to process (usually in email), and continuous interruptions from technologies like phones, instant messaging, and email.
On an average, how many sources for News do we use? Newspaper, Radio, TV, News web sites, Youtube, blogs, twitter, RSS feeds, the list goes on. most of the times, we get the same information from various sources. For communication, we use Email, Phone, IM, Text messages, Voicemail, Facebook, Myspace and so on. Not only that, we have multiple phones, email addresses and instant messengers.
Basex is a Research company for Knowledge economy issues and it has called "information overload" as the Problem of the year for 2008. Constant interruptions cost America around $650 billion dollars a year - that could have been the stimulus package!
One of the notions which comes out of all these technologies is that of multitasking. This is a typical office scenario. Any time there is a conference call, people get on the call, press mute button and start "multitasking". They may be replying to emails, reading other documents or even making a cup of coffee. When someone asks a question to a specific person, mostly the reply is: I am sorry, I was on mute. Could you please repeat the question? The phone has a mute button, we have discovered a 'deaf' button as well!
Another nuisance of emails at work is group emails. Someone sends out an email about a ball game to all employees at a site, for example. Thirty enthusiastic responders will 'Reply All' to say 'Count me In'. Five wise men will 'Reply All' to say please do not reply to all. And 4 geniuses will 'Reply All' to say 'Please remove my name from this chain'. You would have received 40 emails in matter of minutes. And if you have a beep or an envelope indicating 'You Have Got Mail', you would hate that feature and pull your hair.
There is a group called Information Overload Research Group and Nathan Zeldes from Intel is the chairman of the group. Nathan estimates "the impact of information overload on each knowledge worker at up to eight hours a week -- we loose one day out of 5!
On an average, a person gets 75 to 100 work emails a day, 50% of these are not relevant. We feel overwhelmed with where to look and what to do, how to find important information or tasks from the bulk - how to sort wheat from the chaff. Add to this the personal email pile -- spam, chain letters and recycled jokes, quotes and so on.
An example of home multitasking: TV is switched on with remote handy to flip channels, laptop is on lap, couple of IM windows are active, cell phone is right there.
Don't get me wrong. Each of these technologies has a great value to make our lives more effective and efficient. The email, chat, GPS, Internet, cell phone - these are all enablers. The fact that we can record a home video, review it on computer, send to family far away or upload on YouTube is really cool. The question is: How to deal with the issue of infomania?
First and foremost, take a stance and build some discipline:We are using the tools, not being used by them.
- Just because it is possible, you should not be reachable to everybody all the time.
- When you need to focus on something, turn off your cellphone, don't pay attention to incoming mails. In fact, incoming email indicator can be turned off forever.
- Allocate chunks of times for email checking and replying. Handle each piece of information minimum number of times.
- Politely decline meeting requests where you have nothing to gain or contribute.
- Do not take your computer or work email device during vacation.
- DO NOT subscribe to every news/blog/RSS feed service.
- And lastly, meditate to regain your focus.
To conclude, Information revolution and information overload is going to continue in 21st century. In order to leverage this revolution for better, we need to pick and choose. And, we need to ask ourselves at the end of the day. week, month -- Are we adding value to our lives and our world? Or, are we getting exhausted coping with the technology created by others?
Bina Mehta is an IT professional with over 18 years of experience. She holds PMP certification from Project Management Institute. She serves as President of FairOaks Toastmasters Club and has achieved Competent Communicator. Her interests include Reading, Writing, Problem Solving, Public Speaking, Yoga