As we approach summer, many of you will probably have plans in place to make this your best summer yet. You might be exploring different ways to cook, seeking out new walking trails, or dusting off those climbing shoes. Before you embark on your new shiny plans, be sure to make room in your life for them.
Your free time is a lot like a garden. A well-tended garden gives space to each desired plant while weeds are hunted down and removed. If you want your new interests to have space, you need to make sure your garden of free time has room for them. This might mean you need to spend time doing a bit of weeding and free yourself of things that take up your time but don’t give you any fruit. It might also mean you need to look closely at the existing plants, or time obligations you’re already committed to, and remove ones that you find you don’t like anymore.
In a garden, it’s pretty obvious when weeds take over. However, in our homes and minds, it’s more subtle. Science has shown that clutter brings stress and can actually lead to depression. It’s as if each item you spot that needs to be put away drains you of energy by simply seeing it. If everywhere you look has things that need to be dealt with, the situation can quickly become overwhelming and we’ll do anything to avoid it, including retreating to social media, leaving the house, or binging Netflix.
If you are struggling to fit the things you want to do into your day, clutter might be partially to blame. How long did it take you to find your keys this morning? The other shoe of the pair you wanted to wear? A clean water bottle for the day? Every time you have to stop to find something, it robs you of your time and energy to do what you want.
Brain clutter is harder to spot. It shows up when we find ourselves repeating our to-do list over and over, replaying an uncomfortable conversation or experience trying to justify something that we said or did, or criticizing each and every little thing that crosses our path. Clearing away brain clutter is just as important as clearing out weeds.
Making space for your new shiny idea.
If you’ve already figured out exactly how to make the new shiny plan you have for yourself this summer, then terrific. Go for it!
If you’re any bit like me, you’re still trying to figure out the details. Start by making a dedicated space for your new plan. If you want to eat healthier snacks, instead of sugary ones, take the time to clear out a space to keep just that type of snack. You might want to organize a cute basket in your pantry or dedicate one of the fridge drawers to the foods you want everyone to eat more of.
Keep it simple. All you need is a space where you can find what you need easily that makes sense. If the area you’d like to use is cluttered with stuff that’s accumulated there, you owe it to yourself to make it nice again. Focus on just that spot and don’t get distracted.
For unwanted brain chatter that’s making doing your new thing hard, start with identifying the thoughts that come up. If it’s that unending to-do list, take a few minutes to write down everything you’re trying to hold in your head. Chances are, there aren’t as many items as you thought and now they are on paper, you can have the satisfaction of crossing things off.
If you’re stuck in a cycle of reliving a negative experience or being critical, take 5-10 minutes to either journal about why you’re stuck on those thoughts or listen to a guided meditation to adjust your focus back to something productive.
Clearing out the “garden” can be hard
I’ve always been a dreamer. When one of these transition times comes rolling around – like the start of school break, the start of a new year, or sometimes just a Monday – I tend to over-plan and under-prepare. On Sunday night, I start dreaming of how I’m going to make the week amazing. It usually includes making beautiful uber-healthy meals, getting all my steps in, committing to X number of hours on my newest book project, doing all my chores on time, and spending dedicated time with my kids.
But, I don’t really do anything to prepare myself. Which means, more often than not, I fail. I don’t create a meal plan in time so when dinner rolls around, I’m scrambling for ideas and pizza is sounding really good. That walk I was going to take gets lost between spending way too much time on email and zoning out on Tik Tok when my energy levels plummet in the afternoon – possibly from not eating a great breakfast…
Making space and putting plans in place make it possible for me to get most of what I set out to do done. And I can live with “most.”
Discussion question: What do you always intend to do, but end up not being able to because of poor planning?