When you feel stressed, worried, or anxious, it’s hard to work productively. In certain situations procrastination works as a coping mechanism to keep your stress levels under control. A wise solution is to reduce the amount of stress in your life when possible, such that you can spend more time working because you want to, not because you have to.


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Now that you’ve sorted the clutter, grab one of the boxes and take a look at the contents. Ask yourself why these items ended up as clutter. It’s most likely because you didn’t have a good system for dealing with these items. Maybe these items don’t have an assigned home, or maybe the storage location you’ve assigned them is too inconvenient, so it’s easier just to leave them out. Maybe you have items that need to be filed, but you don’t yet have a file for them, and your blank file folders are inconveniently stowed away deep in your closet. Ask yourself under what conditions each item might not have ended up as clutter. This will give you a clue as to how to prevent the clutter from returning.

Give Every Object a Home

As you go through the boxes one by one, assign a home to each item. Where will you put those old bank statements? Where should all those design notes go? If you had a box for trash, go through those items and note what should have been thrown away. If you assign a convenient home to every item, you will be much more inclined to put them away. Once I did this I found that my office was self-maintaining. I always put things away because the storage for items is right next to where they’re used.

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Assign appropriate containers for items. Take a trip to the local office supply store to get an idea of all the different types of containers that are available. Don’t be afraid to buy new storage such as drawers and shelves once you identify a need for them.

Where clutter has accumulated, most likely items either have no home, or the storage isn’t convenient. Acknowledge your true needs — don’t fight them. If you have a short bookcase, would a taller one serve you better? If your trash container seems to be constantly overflowing, replace it with a larger one, or place multiple trash containers in different areas of your office. I found two trash containers to work much better for me than just one, so I always have one within reach when I need it, and I don’t have to empty them as often. For many years I’ve used something called a project box (similar to a literature sorter) to organize materials. It is a wooden box about three feet across, one foot high, and one foot deep with four small cardboard drawers, four shelves, and a book/binder storage area.

No doubt there exist real dangers in life you must avoid. But there’s a huge gulf between recklessness and courage.
I’m not referring to the heroic courage required to risk your life to save someone from a burning building.
By courage I mean the ability to face down those imaginary fears and reclaim the far more powerful life that you’ve denied yourself.
Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of going broke. Fear of being alone. Fear of humiliation.
Fear of public speaking. Fear of being ostracized by family and friends. Fear of physical discomfort.
Fear of regret. Fear of success.

Once you’ve sorted the clutter, chosen the right containers, and assigned convenient homes for everything, take the time to put everything where it should go. This shouldn’t take long at all if you’ve made all the decisions in advance. Don’t take any shortcuts, or they will come back to haunt you later. Disorganized people make life harder by forcing themselves to always make a new decision on where each item should go. Organized people establish systems so that the proper place for each item is obvious; thus, no new decisions have to be made each time. For instance, when I receive postal mail, I automatically place the bills and financial statements into the bills drawer, the junk mail into the trash, the magazines into the magazine rack, and items that require other processing into my inbox.

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