Once upon a time I had a manager I adored. She led rather than managed, she empowered each of us, she handled challenges with grace and certainty and she served as great inspiration to me then and now. One evening as we were readying ourselves to leave she shared a bit of wisdom that changed my life. I'm not exaggerating. Unsolicited, she offered this bit of genius:
"I'm not any more skilled than anyone else, I'm simply more organized."
And was she. Weekly manicured, consistently trimmed hair, flawless outfits, and she ran that boutique like a well oiled machine. I never once saw her tackle an obstacle with anything other than ease. It was a sense of calm and confidence that she exuded because she was, indeed, organized. From her personal body, wardrobe and routines to how she handled her business.
Lest you think she was tightly wound, rest assured she wasn't. Freed from the stress of disorganization she was perpetually at ease, laughed easily and radiated positive energy. The few times I saw her even slightly ruffled, it was akin to watching a camera lens focus on a subject. It was a purposeful response to a real life situation. She possessed an admirable fluidity to her being that was enviable and magnetic. Her simple yet profound personal observation about her "secret leadership weapon" left a lasting mark on my psyche.
Her humble statement still lingers in my mind like a soft guiding beam. offering a firm reminder to stay on top of life's loose ends. The mere existence of a to-do list can drum up feelings of anxiety and tension. Yet, left unattended or undone, our required tasks overwhelm us and govern our lives. We'e all no doubt lived to tell that decisions not made are typically made for you by external forces. Loose ends left untied always result in something becoming unraveled - often with unwanted ramifications.
To me there are layers of chaos. There is the overflow of the physical: laundry, mail, closets, storage, paperwork. There are calendar items or tasks: meetings, reports, projects due, calls to make, parcels to mail, appointments to be made etc. Think of those as "must manage" layers. With those out of control you're doomed. Once you've whipped your physical and mental realm into shape you can then begin (successfully) achieving your goals, tackling your larger life objectives, fulfilling your personal destiny.
Think of this as a parallel on Maslow's Hierarchy (remember that?) of needs. Handle your business starting from the physical layer and moving to the more abstract to succeed. Without a firm (and orderly) foundation you can't achieve greatness. It makes sense, doesn't it? I doubt great leaders and innovators of the world have piles of clutter and overflowing garages. Even if they personally aren't sorting files on the weekend, they've delegated that task to someone who knocks it out of the park.
Knowing this, I've just finished going through every possession I own, piece by piece. Much was tossed, much is being sold, much is to be donated. By touching and making decisions on everything (and I do mean everything) I feel empowered, in control and completely freed. It's amazing how much mental energy your "things" pull from you when left unedited. With my physical world in order, my brain is functioning at a much higher level. I am not reacting to life's surprises, I'm responding. I am crushing my to-do list like a beast (level two of the "rise above" plan). I am filled with a surreal feeling of confidence and my creative output has skyrocketed.
It's hard to believe that a few boxes of receipts, an overflowing closet (or two) and more than a few disorganized drawers could have held my productivity hostage. Yet they did. And I've now been freed to live a better more purpose filled life. I've learned a very powerful lesson and can only hope this post imparts some of the same wisdom and inspiration upon you.
Organize your surroundings to organize your thoughts. Work from the outside in. Frankly, it's easier this way. Perhaps lightening your inventory of shoes and sweaters will make you a corner office superhero. Be ruthless. Leave nothing untouched or undone. Take care of every single detail and edit, edit, edit. The resulting emotional, creative and mental freedom will astound you and energize you. You'll be on fire and unbelievably energized about life. I promise!