In a previous post, I talked about 5 Reasons You Pile Things. Now let’s take a look at how to actually get rid of the pile.
Step One: Sort into Two Containers
First, get two containers (you could use boxes, baskets, bins–whatever will hold a stack of stuff). Second, quickly sort everything into the containers: 1) needs an action, 2) needs a decision.
The key here is to sort quickly! Do not stop to read things or work on projects. Just whiz through the pile as fast as you can identify things.
The goal in doing this is to sort out the ambiguous stuff from the things that already have a next action step.
So now you have things in the first box which include the following:
- put it away
- file it
- fix it
- enter information somewhere
- throw it away (just do this!)
The second box includes:
- maybe projects
- unidentified objects
- stuff you want but it doesn’t have a home
- sentimental stuff
- just-in-case stuff
- things for later (read, try, etc.)
The quick sort was the very first step in creating a Pile Demolition System. Some people call this processing their inbox; I call it “pile demolition” because, let’s face it, I don’t have an inbox, I have an in-room!
Frankly, I’d love to get down to an inbox that had a weekly attack plan, and this is step one. The “do” box mostly consists of filing, putting something away, or recording information with occasional other actions (like tossing trash or fixing something).
This part of the pile is not energy sapping. It doesn’t make me anxious because I know what to do. But it is not urgent, so it is easy to be lazy and not do it.
If you need to read some procrastination remedies, you can start here.
Here’s what really saps your energy: decisions
The “decision” box is definitely the one that threatens to overwhelm me. Honestly, this is what has tended to defeat me in dealing with piles for years. I dive into a pile to “get it sorted,” and before long I have way too many decisions to make. Decision making is very tiring!
There are only a limited number of decisions that you can realistically make in a day. If you sit with a “procrastination” pile and go through item after item trying to make decisions about them, you will quickly tire yourself out.
That doesn’t mean the decisions don’t need to be made—they desperately do! But trying to do it all without any kind of system to help you is like trying to climb Mt. Everest without any training or equipment. Not gonna’ happen!
So, what you need at this point is a decision-making guide. Read the next post about decision making here.