Many things get in the way of being able to declutter effectively. One reason is decision paralysis. You may observe it in other areas of your life as well.
So what’s decision paralysis?
It’s the inability to make a decision. When decluttering or organising, it’s often due to overwhelm, stress or tiredness. For some, this feeling’s there from the get go. For others It sneaks up on you during your decluttering session. Either way, you find yourself working through your stuff and you can’t decide what to do with any of it. You feel like you’ve achieved nothing.
This paralysis often sets in after you’ve been making decision after decision. The decision making process tires out your mind. It’s often recognisable as that foggy feeling, making further decisions making impossible.
Start with bite sized pieces
So how do you avoid decision paralysis during a declutter session?
If you have it before you even start, you’re probably thinking that you’re already overwhelmed by the task ahead. There’s so much to go through!
Where do you start?
Start anywhere. It doesn’t matter where.
Progress is progress.
Now break your task up into small chunks. It might just be, deal with one item this session. So, start with that bit of paper. Focus on that one paper. Make a decision of what you’ll do with it, and deal with it. Put it where it belongs or throw it out.
Giving your attention to one item at a time will equal success. So if your bite sized piece is one item. That’s perfect.
Work within your limits
If you know decision paralysis is your issue, it’s important to set time limits on how long you organise for. Work within your means as making decisions can be overwhelming.
Imagine that you’re sorting through papers. Half an hour in, you’re getting tired and you’re starting to shuffle the paperwork rather than binning it or filing it. This is decision paralysis. It comes about because you’ve made hundreds of decisions in that half hour. Of course you’re tired. You need a break. Go get a coffee, some fresh air or change tasks for a little while before you return to it.
So with the above example, your limit is within 30 minutes. I’d recommend that you even shorten it to 15 minutes so you have a bit of energy left to deal with the sorted piles you’ve created.
Knowing the timeframe that you can cope in these decluttering sessions is crucial to your success. Reflect on your past attempts at decluttering and organising. How many minutes passed before you got tired? When did you find that your eyes glazed over? When do you start shuffling papers instead of deciding on what you’re doing with them? Set a time limit at least 10 minutes sooner than that feeling set in. Being aware of these tell-tale signs will help you set reasonable timeframes. Working within your limits will equal success.
Not sure what your limit is? Start with 5 minutes and build up from there.
Even if your window is 30 seconds, that’s one item dealt with. That’s still progress. With time and confidence you’ll be able to manage more. If your timeframe is short that ok. You can do a few sessions a day – one in the morning, one at night.
The Bigger Picture
Some of the most successful people in the world acknowledge decision paralysis. Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and (the late) Steve Jobs realise(d) time is of the essence. All three have removed the decision from their day about what to wear by owning multiples of the same outfit. No thought needed. Obama also outsources food decisions on a daily basis so he can focus on his job, and the big decisions.
The point is, being aware of this decision paralysis can be life changing. If you waste your energy on the little decisions, you won’t have enough left over for the bigger stuff.
Let’s start with the stuff in our homes and offices. Pare back on the decisions you make each time you look in a drawer or cupboard. Get rid of the superfluous. Make space for those big decisions.
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