Decluttering your To-Do list with Jill Morris - Conny Graf

Meet my guest Jill Morris, we are talking about the mindset you need to declutter your to-do lists. 

In last weeks episode, number 23 called Social Clutter and Full Calendars I already explored full calendars and long to-do lists a little bit. I shared with you my tips on how to create a schedule that is aligned with your priorities and creates a life that you enjoy. 

Today I talk with Jill about her approach of decluttering the to-do list. Jill is a life coach for artists and musicians and as a musician herself, she is passionate about getting more art out into the world. 

That's why she helps fellow artists, creatives and musicians with decluttering their to-do lists. So if you still struggle with an overfull calendar and a too long to-do list, here is what we talked about: 

  • If you have all the time in the world you will fill it with something. but if you don't decide ahead of time what you're going to fill it with,  it ends up being a lot of just buffering things like scrolling Social Media
  • The process of decluttering your to do list is simply a matter of deciding what you're going to do, and at the same time accepting that you're not going to do all of it.

If you find value in this conversation with Jill please share this episode with your family and friends because if you find value in it, they will too.

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Jill Morris

Jill is a life coach for artists and musicians. A musician herself, she is passionate about getting more art out into the world! She lives in Seattle with her partner and their dog Domino.


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Reading instead of Listening (Transcript) 

Conny Graf 0:13
Welcome Jill I'm so excited to have you as a guest on my podcast.

Jill Morris 0:18
Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.

Conny Graf 0:20
Yeah, me too. So you told me that you're a coach for artists and musicians, and that you find that they are often very scattered. So how exactly do you help your clients.

Jill Morris 0:33
So I help my clients with mindset and time management are kind of the two biggest pieces that we work on. So, getting their minds in a good place to think about scheduling, because I think a lot of artists really resist, putting any sort of schedule together because it doesn't feel as free or, as you know like going with the flow or going with when inspiration hits. But scheduling actually allows you more time I've found and you can really focus your energy in specific time frames so that you do get things done. And you can schedule out inspiration, even though it sounds counterintuitive but it absolutely can happen.

Conny Graf 1:25
Yeah, I agree with you because the people that I work with, sometimes they say too "oh no I need the chaos to be creative" and it's actually not true. This is kind of a story, they're telling themselves. And, yeah, and I also feel like if you have some structure, in the end you'll have more freedom and more inspiration, than if you're dealing with the chaos so yeah it's a, it's really neat to hear your experience around the to-do lists and the time management so how did you figure this out. Were you always very organized, because you are a musician yourself, so are you... were you always organized or did you learn it somehow or how did that happen?

Jill Morris 2:15
I've certainly always mostly been organized, but I also have had a lot of resistance to scheduling things out and so you know I'm, I get things done and I can keep things relatively orderly but I also can spin in my head and so there's a lot of years of my life that I could have been way more effective than I was because I was scrolling on Instagram, because I didn't schedule out what I was going to do. And so, yes and no. I've always been organized, I've really like honed it in the last year or so to realizing that I like I said like I can create time by scheduling my time versus thinking that if I don't schedule it then all I have all the time in the world but when you have all the time in the world you fill it with something and if you don't decide ahead of time what you're going to fill it with it ends up a lot of time just being buffering things.

Conny Graf 3:13
Yeah, that's totally true so now but then of course we have the obstacle which I catch myself sometimes as well. Even though I do plan and I do try to be very intentional with my time but then sometimes we're having a beautiful plan, we're just not following this.

Jill Morris 3:31

Conny Graf 3:31
do you have clients too that that struggle with that so that they would be all nicely laid out, but then they're not doing it

Jill Morris 3:39
right, yeah i mean that certainly happens and that's because we've been in this mindset of resistance for forever And that's not just going to go away because you scheduled things like you can put it on your schedule but you also have to hold yourself to it and follow through. And that is a confidence piece of I hold myself to the things that I've said I'm going to do. And because we've been in this mindset for so long have I just make decisions in the moment. It is a mindset shift, I've made the decision ahead of time and then holding true to the decision you've already made instead of but I want to change my decision now. So I think that's a lot of what's coming up for people when they don't follow through, is it comes up on the 12 o'clock hour when they've scheduled to sit down and write and they're like, well, but I could do something else I'm going to make a decision right now instead of holding on to the decision I already made.

Conny Graf 4:35
and that's when they feel so in charge when they're actually the opposite they're not in charge anymore. And it's so funny to like I noticed that with myself so like I'm, I'm working on this as well. We if we would have an appointment with somebody else like we just had an appointment we both showed up at the same time like we had agreed. But how come then we agree something with ourselves and then time comes along and we just decide, oh that's actually not what I want to honor right. Something else so it's almost like other other people can hold us accountable much better than we ourselves, which is also not freedom, like we're feeling like we're free and we're doing what we want, but then we're not it's like completely counter intuitive.

Jill Morris 5:28
Right, well I mean that's the thing is that it's not because someone else is holding us accountable, it's that we have in our head, that the decision was already made. And so we're gonna follow through with it, versus when we make the decision with ourselves, we can always change our minds. So we have it in our heads that well I can just decide differently right now, it's it's all your own mind even if it's you and someone else but it's, you're not going to change your decision in the moment because there's someone else there and you just have to switch that to like say that to yourself as well like when I said that I was going to sit down and write at noon. I'm going to sit down to write at noon I'm not going to make a different decision because I've already made the decision.

Conny Graf 6:10
Yeah. Yeah, totally

Jill Morris 6:12
I have to fight the resistance to keep doing that. And the more that you do it and the more that you see that you actually end up having more time and you get more done and you see the results of what comes out of that, the easier it is to keep holding yourself to the decisions you make. I think well I think it's great.

Conny Graf 6:29
Yeah, exactly, it's it's the same with decluttering when I tell my clients you can just get into their routine and do it every day. And it may not look like something in the first three days but it will show up later that you have more breathing room that you feel better that it's that you move forward better and all that.

Jill Morris 6:49
Well we like to forget like how far we've come. And so we always think that we're in the beginning stages of something even if we're not. And so, especially for musicians and like artists if you think back like they forget that at one point they didn't know how to draw, or they didn't know how to put a story together. And so now they're moving forward with this mindset of like, well, I don't know what I'm doing but they didn't know then and now they know more. And so we have to remember that like we do know more now.

Conny Graf 7:22
Yeah, totally. That's a good point. That's a good point. So, how do you help your clients to determine what to work on because we're talking about decluttering the to do lists. So, if, if .... my listeners are like most people who have way too much on our list. Right, I'm guilty of that sometimes too and then I have to go and weed out, then declutter so how do you help them. Let's ask different are musicians and artists different when they have to prioritize or are we all the same in your opinion,

Jill Morris 7:57
I mean I definitely think we are all the same in a lot of ways I think that a lot of artists and musicians have a lot of ideas for projects that maybe not everyone indulges in those ideas like they've had those ideas but they don't always indulge in them, which is just the difference between someone saying to themself I am a creative person versus not. And, but yeah i mean i think in the process of decluttering your to do list, it's simply a matter which sounds simple and it's not a deciding what you're going to do, and then accepting that you're not going to do all of it. Because when you think about it, and you like you, I mean you can, you can do whatever you want, you can do all of the things but you have to think about how effective am I going to be how much time do I actually have. What will I realistically be able to accomplish this week if I do all of the things versus what can i realistically accomplish if I focus on just one thing this week and I complete it in a week. And so it's making the decision, ahead of time again like about how you're going to spend your time and just deciding what is important and knowing that there's no right or wrong way, you can always pivot, but that you have the confidence to make that decision in the moment of this is where I'm spending my time and this is important to me.

Conny Graf 9:25
Yeah. So, I, my, my opinion is that we're in the end and we're all creative so whether I'm a musician or an artist or not I'm still kind of a creative because I'm creating my reality or I'm creating my life with the decisions I'm making on what I'm working on, and and like you just said it's, we try to work on everything that pops in our head, but it's not very effective, but it's still, it's like the same thing like with decluttering physical items. In one way you do see the advantage of having more space and having less clutter in your home on the other sense, it's kind of hard to let go of things. So how do you help your clients that they can let go like they can't do it. All right. But even if they wanted to, like, let's be honest, we can do all that we can try but it's it's not it, we get scattered like you say, so how do you help them let go of because sometimes I feel like it happens to me too, like I feel, oh these are all important projects that I need to do them all.

Jill Morris 10:36
Mm hmm.

Conny Graf 10:37
And then you have to of course decide okay I have to do them in order like first one, then the next the next How do you decide which one and you have to kind of let go of project number 10 possibly because you can't do them all

Jill Morris 10:53
I think it is very similar to decluttering your home and that you know for some people if they do feel so tied to all of the things it can be helpful to put the things that you're thinking of so with your house it's the items with your to do list, it's your projects put them on a list. And the ones that you're not working on are the ones that you're considering not keeping you put in a closet for a period of time and then you revisit it and say, Do I still want this later on so you, you know, you absolutely can just write the list pick one throw the list away, or if that feels too scary. Just put the list somewhere else and revisit it later. There's no need to throw it out if that's if that's gonna get you in more mind drama about what you're doing. Just keep it and know that I'm going to do this one thing, and then I'll come back and I'll, and I'll keep going through the list until I get to project number 10.

Conny Graf 11:49
Yeah, when I get to project number 10. I have actually 100 on my list.

Jill Morris 11:56

Conny Graf 11:56
so yeah, it's totally it's I think it's really very similar that's kind of why I wanted to talk with you about this because it is very similar between decluttering physical items or decluttering to dos and like projects or ideas that we want to put out into the world. Now, since we're talking about physical items I was wondering whether you have any experience or your clients had any experience with..... with the surroundings so I always feel like if the surroundings are very cluttered it is hard for our brain to concentrate and it's hard to be creative. Do you have any input or any any opinion on that. Or does the environment, not affect a musician or a writer or an artist.

Jill Morris 12:48
I mean I think it definitely just depends on the person. I personally like clean space. I am super Virgo so I just enjoy being organized in general. And, but I also can use that as buffering, a lot so I'll say, Oh, I have all these things on my to do list but what if I just reorganized my office today instead. But I do definitely like I personally feel better if my space is clean and I make sure that I have that on my schedule as a thing that I do every week because if I don't sweep for two weeks it starts to pile up and I don't like it and it starts to create my own drama that I don't need, and there's two ways you can go about it you can either take the time and keep things clean or you can work on your mind around why that doesn't need to matter. Then I just choose to clean it.

Conny Graf 13:42
Yeah. And and you're... So, because I have you here. You are now very verbal and very organized, but I'm sure you've come across, especially artists, and I don't know much about musicians but artists who feel like they need everything very close and they need to have it all here for inspiration or they need to have it all in their in their view because they hear a lot. Oh, if I don't see it I forget about it. But, but what I feel is like when you see so much stuff and science actually proves that when you see so much stuff your brain is so occupied with filtering out all that stuff that actually has nothing to do with you right now. So you come across clients like this or not so much. Are you attracting maybe more Virgos client

Jill Morris 14:39
thank yeah maybe I am, but I also would just ask them you know if that's something they're thinking like I need all of these things around me they're really tied to that so I would just ask them why, like why is that important. What are you afraid is gonna happen if it's not there do you think that the inspiration comes from the things around you or do you think that it comes from within because I fully believe that you have everything that you need within you and I mean I surround myself with art and my all of my tools are right next to me like I certainly like them to be there but they also are in drawers and not just like all over the place. But again, I can always just work on my mindset around that if I start to feel really tied to my thoughts around my surroundings, I can always clear it up or I can clear my mind, or both.

Conny Graf 15:30
Yeah, totally. It's sometimes...... so what what I hear a lot is oh I need to see it, because otherwise I forget it, and and I always say it's kind of like a boundary issue to like you let everything just kind of come too close even if it has nothing to do with you right now and that's when your brain gets scattered you get pulled over here you get pulled over here and you can concentrate, and they feel like they are in control which is actually the opposite they're not in control at all that's kind of why I was wondering and I get a lot of that pushback from, especially from artists and creative, or people that explicitly call themselves creatives that paint or, or do crafts and stuff like that so that's why I was wondering whether.

Jill Morris 16:20
Yeah, it's also, if you if you're saying I'm in control and I have all these things that I needed all around me. If you're needing something so much what tells you that you're in control that like what is being in control mean to you. If the absence of these things around you then pulls you out of control of your inspiration or whatever. That's where I would be questioning that that because that doesn't indicate control to me that indicates a dependency on something and you can certainly just choose to have those things and that's fine. You can have them around and not be dependent on them.

Conny Graf 16:59
Yeah, exactly, exactly,

Jill Morris 17:01
but why would you want to be dependent on them.

Conny Graf 17:03
Yeah. So, when you work for clients that's where you start is that where you start that they should start questioning their mind or do you have also some practical tips on how they can start decluttering their to do list or that's mainly your jam, you know, decluttering their to do list and focusing on what they want to do.

Jill Morris 17:23
We definitely start with mindset and continue with mindset and it's all about mindset, but usually in the first couple of sessions time will come up as an issue because everyone has a thought about time and so we do work on scheduling things out and putting together. Okay, we're going to decide what you're going to spend your time on we're going to put it in your schedule and you're going to do it, and then if that doesn't work this week, then we can talk about it, but we have to see if it works before we say that it's not going to work.

Conny Graf 18:02
Yes. So then there is not anything, or do you suggest they should do it on paper or is it totally up to them like, do you have some kind of a recommendation that would be over for everybody, with the added for everybody.

Jill Morris 18:22
I do have recommendations and then I also say like, if whatever part of this doesn't work for you, by all means don't use it, but at least try it for a week and see which pieces of it do work for you, and but I usually suggest to sit down and write on paper every single thing that you can think of that you need to do that you want to do all of the 10 projects that you have in your head or 100 projects, whatever. And like, each of the steps that it will take to get there, and write it all down, and then you go I use a digital calendar because I it's, I find it easier to kind of move things around. If you absolutely need to. And like, you know, have things recurring it's just like an easier process but you plug, each of those to dos into your schedule it doesn't have to be for the next week. Because especially if you have 100 projects you're going to, you know, you put them somewhere in the future and then you just readjust every single week and make sure that what's on your schedule is still what you want to be on your schedule or maybe you're taking an impromptu trip this week and now you're going to move that project the week after whatever that looks like. But yeah, on paper first with all of your to dos. And as you're looking at it before you plug it in, you know like, see if there's anything that you can delegate to someone else or hire out or this actually I don't want to do this anymore, this, I can just let go of this project it's actually not important. And then only put things on your schedule that are really important to you.

Conny Graf 19:54
Yeah, I do find that when we're actually really sitting down and scheduling out the week, and we're actually really questioning everything, all of a sudden you realize that what you always thought was important, it's not important that it's funny it's the same like when I work with my clients, and then we go through the items and see which ones they want to let go, all of a sudden they say to me I don't even know why I have this, and I'm like yeah Okay, and let's maybe you can now try to question yourself while you have it or you could just let it go and move on to the next one. Oh yeah, it's actually really amazing how how similar everything is in our life like it's, it starts with our brain I always say like every clutter is mental clutter too, first and foremost it's mental clutter like if you can't let go of an item it's mental clutter that you have in your head.

Jill Morris 20:50
Totally yeah, it all starts with your mind.

Conny Graf 20:53
Yeah, yeah, and our minds are amazing things and we should take better care of them.

Jill Morris 21:00
Yeah. Yeah.

Conny Graf 21:02
So, did you want to leave my listeners with a last tip or maybe I didn't ask you something that you really want to get out in the open.

Jill Morris 21:13
I mean I think just the idea that your schedule and what you fill your time with is up to you. And that it is your decision. Even the things that you think are non negotiables. You choose if they're non negotiable so if you say, Well, I have to go to work. You don't there's a consequences perhaps to not go and of course. But you choose, by you saying I have to go to work that's you choosing that you don't want the consequences you want the benefit. And it's always your choice. So even the things that you've said yes to or that you are responsible for they're always a choice, there's always consequences, good or bad to every choice and it is all up to you. And once you can feel that it is within your control to create your schedule and to create time, it becomes a lot easier and you find more time because you're not spinning and thoughts about how you don't have any of it.

Conny Graf 22:20
Yeah, I like to call it create time because if you're actually really focused. All of a sudden you do have more time you kind of create the time because you're more aware and more mindful about it so all of a sudden it's here and then you wonder, what did I do before like, that's exactly where you waste your time

Jill Morris 22:42
probably on your phone, or like watching stuff.

Conny Graf 22:45
These days, most likely, people are either watching Netflix and, or they're scrolling on their phone

Jill Morris 22:53
And I guess actually one final thing would be one thing that really shifted a lot for me was to leave my phone in another room while I sleep and get an actual alarm clock. So I always just read an actual physical book before bed and I do not have my phone in my bedroom I have an actual alarm clock that goes off like battery powered and, and that alone has cleared a lot of my mind because I'm not just like scrolling right before I go to sleep and like I don't shut down I absolutely shut down because I'm reading and I get sleepy. And then right when you wake up, even if you just go downstairs and look at your phone immediately you still have that moment of clarity right when you wake up to kind of like set into your day and start out with a clear head instead of start out with notifications and things that you're responsible for and things like that so get an alarm clock is always my first tip.

Conny Graf 23:53
Okay, you heard it, get an alarm clock Jill says.

Conny Graf 23:58
No, but it's true it's actually sad when the first thing in the morning is notifications and the last thing in evening is notifications and then we're like complaining possibly that we feeling stress, when it would be in our control to make sure we're not so stressed and not so distracted and not so scattered.

Jill Morris 24:21
When you're plugging into the outside world right before you go to bed and right when you wake up, you're not plugging into your own power. And like your own ideas. And the more that you can do that, the more effective you will be just as a person.

Conny Graf 24:36
So, I find it a more creative I would think too, no? they're more creative and you would get inspiration and all that.

Jill Morris 24:42
Yeah, yeah, we don't get bored anymore and like we were so creative as kids because we got bored all the time we had to do like figure things out so just like, get yourself in a place of being bored and see what happens.

Conny Graf 24:55
Yeah, I actually heard at, I think it was even a TED talk where the person said too that it is actually not good for our brain to never be bored because also when we were bored. The brain would start reorganizing and decluttering and stuff and that's how cool ideas come out and now we're never bored because whenever we have to wait somewhere or whatever we right away pull out the phone and start scrolling It's kind of crazy how are we... How did we end here? end up here like it's a yeah

Jill Morris 25:31
addictions information, I think.

Conny Graf 25:35
Exactly. Well thank you so much Jill it has been really a pleasure to have you here and to talk with you about this and see all these this common ground between what you're doing what I'm doing. And so, let everybody know where they can find you where they can stalk you and learn more.

Jill Morris 25:55
Yeah I'm mostly on Instagram, and my handle is @jillifred, jillifred, and I go live on Instagram every Sunday I have a like basically a weekly workshop and I have workbooks that go out so if you want to learn how to set goals or grow your self confidence or make more art, those are all the things coming up, and then you can get on my email list from there and get the workbooks and get signed up for all updates on art nights that I host our book club and all things like that.

Conny Graf 26:30
Sounds amazing and awesome so I will put that all in the show notes so people can just click on it, they don't have to go search for you, but that's awesome.

Jill Morris 26:39
Yeah, thank you.

Conny Graf 26:40
Thanks so much for being a guest on my podcast and for your time.

Jill Morris 26:45
Thank you for having me on.

Conny Graf 26:47
Thanks. Bye.

Jill Morris 26:49

If you have any questions

If you have a question about decluttering, organizing or something you heard me talk about on the podcast I'd like to invite you to a free public call "ask Conny". You can ask me a question anonymously or just listen in what others ask.

Register here, I look forward to seeing you there. 

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  • Karen says:

    Hey Conny,

    Great discussion! 🙂

    I’m no psychologist but I do think most people are “creatives” in some way… I think “creating” is part of what makes us human! All humans have the drive to create, whether it is a garden plot, a nurturing home environment for family, a business, or the traditional arts!

    So, I think this discussion is pertinent for everyone!

    The argument from “some creatives” that you & Jill discuss — “I need chaos to be creative” — reminds me of an interview I heard several years ago with a “rock musician.” He was quite successful in spite of his various “addictions,” and at the time of the interview he had been “recovered” for several years…

    The comment he made in the interview was telling (IMO): he said while he was an “addict” he felt he needed that state in order to be creative and “make his music” but he found out he was actually **much more creative** after he went through treatment and finally was no longer an addict… It was an excuse to continue his addictions all along!

    It may seem rather harsh to make this comparison, but I think the same human tendencies hold up whether it has to do with “needing chaos” or “no schedule” people think they need (or want to keep doing) or something stronger like drugs or alcohol or some other “crutch.”

    IMO, we convince ourselves that our habitual way of thinking is the only way because change is difficult and people generally don’t want to come out of their comfort zone…

    Curious what others think about this…

    Hope others will comment below! 🙂

    • Conny says:

      Thank you so much Karen for your insights. It’s for sure true that people often prefer to find excuses than to change, because change is hard, and it all starts with your mindset. I also liked Jill’s viewpoint that it makes people dependent on stuff, if they need to see everything out in the open.

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