Clean Up Your Act

If you're feeling overwhelmed by too many obligations, too many “little messes” that you need cleaned up, or too many “open projects” on your mind… it may be time to “clean up your act”.

Try this: set aside a day (maybe a Saturday) and designate it as “cleanup day”. On that day, start off by making a list of every obligation, mess, or situation that you feel needs dealing with in your life. Make a long list.

Now identify the items on that list that you could take care of in five minutes or less. Then… take care of them. Make that phone call, visit that website, send that letter or check, or what ever it takes. But spend the five minutes on each of these items to clear them off your list.

Now experience how you feel. You've made some progress. Good work. Here's the next step…

Decide what the next action is you need to take for every one of the remaining items. Don't use broad brush strokes; be very specific about what that “next action” is. For instance, you may have a note that you need to “call Bob”. But perhaps you don't know what Bob's phone number is. So the “next action” is actually “look up Bob's phone number”.

Now, with this new-found clarity about what the next action is for each of these items, see how many of these “next actions” you could accomplish in… five minutes or less. Do those actions.

For the remaining actions, decide whether you need to do them yourself (and if you do, go ahead and schedule them in your calendar), whether you need to delegate them to someone else (and if you do, go ahead in delegate them now), or whether you could actually just delete them from the list altogether.

If you've taken the time to follow through on this exercise, chances are you feel about 100% better about all those “obligations”.

This powerful exercise can create a real space of freedom in your life. For more about operating from that space of freedom, you might want to check out David Allen‘s seminal work, Getting Things Done.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Susanchartock

    Hello Ray,

    Great article! Even before I had a chance to read this post I had already been implementing many of the ideas you have expressed in this article called “Clean Up Your Act.” Many of the “to do items” on my list have been taking more than five minutes to address though. However, it has felt good to address them and then move on to the next. It really has given me that feeling of accomplishment knowing that I’ve been able to complete them all.

    Thank you.

    • It’s a liberating feeling when “the captives are set free”!