Out of sight, out of mind is how the saying goes but it's not true, unfinished business is clutter, weighs heavy and keeps us stuck.
I want to talk about unfinished business, a category of clutter that most people don't recognize as clutter.
As you might remember, there are different categories of clutter, there are
- things you own but don't use or love
- things that are untidy or disorganized
- too many things for the size of space you have
- and then there is also that category of "anything unfinished" and yes that is clutter too.
We all have these projects (big or small) that we once started with great enthusiasm, worked on it until they were at a point and then life demanded our attention some place else and we lost momentum on the project, soon it got pushed away in a corner, next thing we put it in a box, the box gets pushed around, it may end up burried in a closet or taken out to the garage
Out of sight, out of mind.... that's how the saying goes
but it's not true! It might be out of your conscious mind but not out of your unconscious.
Deep down you do have an account of all the unfinished projects that are lingering around in your life and they are weighing on you.
You might not be consciously aware of this because you are so used to this energetic weight, until you start taking care of unfinished business one by one and all of a sudden you feel how a weight is being lifted off your shoulders.
It's so hard to move forward with clarity and inspiration when you have loose ends. Unfinished business does hold us back.
Here a few examples:
- make a phone call that you have procrastinated about
- make an appointment that you have been delaying
- send a card (or email) to a friend or client
- book a time to have that difficult conversation with somebody that you have been avoiding
Here is how we can start taking care of unfinished business and tackle it:
Phase 1 of Cleaning up unfinished business
Step 1: Declutter your brain and mind
Get a piece of paper, your to-do app or a journal and start a list of all the unfinished projects that come to mind, big or small, just list them all
Step 2: Ask yourself for each entry of that list:
does this still matter to me? If not, give yourself permission to not finish this project and to let it go. A lot of people have a problem with that, they feel they need to finish what they started.
Do you have to finish your unfinished business?
I too grew up with the saying "if you say A you have to say B" meaning, if you start something you have to finish it, no matter what.
I find this is not good advice. Yes we should be reliable and if we promise something to somebody we should keep our promise and do it in the time frame promised.
But if we are talking about something you wanted to do for yourself but now you lost interest, there is no reason to stick with it.
Who is it in your ear that tells you, you have to finish it? Is it because you spent time and money on it in the past that you now feel if you don't finish it that time and money is wasted?
I believe as long as you enjoyed yourself back then but now you have moved on and don't want to do this activity anymore, it wasn't and isn't wasted time and money - since you enjoyed yourself - but it would be wasted time and energy now to do it, because you don't enjoy yourself and would only do it out of a belief or obligation that you feel you have.
Ask yourself, to whom do you have this obligation?
Is it really true, that you have an obligation? If yes, then leave it on the list and plan to finish it, if not, let it go and move on.
Now we have now a pruned list and now it's time for
Phase 2 of cleaning up unfinished business
Step 1: Estimate the time needed
Go through the list and put an estimate of time next to each task or project on how long it would take to finish, how much time you estimate it will take. Don't get hung up on this, just put your best guess down on paper.
Step 2: Start with the smallest task(s) first
Based on this updated list choose an area to work with that is a low-hanging fruit meaning it doesn't take a lot of time and you know you can easily handle it.
Allow yourself to work on this list in small manageable time chunks like 15-20 minutes a day but do it every day. This creates a momentum and since you start with the smallest tasks you very quickly have something to celebrate and cross off the list.
Then pick the next smallest task form your list and ask yourself one more time: does it still matter to me? If yes do it and cross it off the list.
Cleaning up big projects
Eventually you will come to the bigger tasks and projects, some of them are big rocks in your life that are way past time that you deal with them and they are weighing heavy on you.
By now you've already trained your decluttering muscle somewhat and you have momentum, so keep going, you got this.
It goes without saying that you need to split this big rock up into smaller pieces, break it into manageable chunks of tasks that you can tackle one by one, day by day.
Repeating this process and working through this list might seem slow progress in your eyes, but the good news is, it is actually progress, slow and steady.
It's better than not doing anything and leaving it all as unfinished business for one day in the future when you think you'll have time, or until you think you'll feel like. This doesn't get you anywhere, keeps you stuck, is no progress.
That's what you were doing so far and it didn't work, are you willing to try a different approach?
Cleaning up loose ends will give you more freedom and peace of mind. These steps will also help you build the muscle of personal integrity (the most important kind of self-care there is!).
There is really nothing complicated in clutter clearing, not even cleaning up unfinished business, it's really simple and straight forward, but it's not easy.
It's not easy because it requires us to make decisions and a lot of clutter that accumulates is put-off decisions, as I talked about here >> Clutter is Unmade Decisions.
We procrastinate on making decisions and because we don't make decisions, because we think we have no time, or no energy, or because we believe it's not important, and by not making decisions we create more and more clutter that robs us of our time, energy and often our money.
How do we create the energy to do something?
We don't create energy by waiting that we once day wake up and have the energy. Energy needs to be produced! We have to do something to get more energy.
So what can you do? You can start by doing something for just a few minutes a day. When you start with the smallest project and do a few minutes a day you will finish it and have a win to celebrate.
This win gives you momentum and the more momentum you have the more energy you have. The magic is to do this over and over and over every day.
A few minutes a day does keep the chaos away. ~Conny Graf
Ok let's summarize how to clean up unfinished business
- get all the unfinished business big projects and small tasks out of your head and onto paper or into your digital to-do app
- Ask yourself if you really want and need to finish it or if it's just a belief or feeling of obligation. Prune everything that you really don't want to finish, and let everything related to it go.
- Go through this pruned list and estimate how much time each task or projects needs
- Start with the smallest task and tackle it in 15-20 minute time chunks per day
- Rinse and repeat, when you come to bigger projects it goes without saying that you need to break them down into smaller tasks that you can tackle day after day until done
Ok my friend,that's it for today. As always, I will never tell you to get rid of anything, not even your unfinished business, what I do help you see is the effect all this clutter has on you, your life and your business.
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