Essential Joy: Organizing time, mind and life
July 5, 2018 | Rebecca Williams, Business Manager
Wherever you’re sitting right now, take a look around you. Pause for a moment and take inventory of your office, or your living room, or your bag of personal belongings.
How many items can you count? Look at how they are placed. Are they neatly arranged on a wall? Or are they haphazardly stacked on top of each other, or slung over a chair? What about the objects in the device you’re using to read this? Does your electronic inbox number in the thousands? Do you know and use every single application? If each file and folder were brought into the real world and arranged in the room you’re in, could you find them?
In just trying to answer these questions, we may begin to feel overwhelmed. That inundated feeling very much translates to how we approach our day-to-day lives with others, our work, and our private mental space.
The Joy of Less
Our society is bound to a lot of stuff. Every tool, souvenir, and sentimental object carries and affects the energy which flows through a room. For every object that blocks light, a shadow is cast. For every object that is placed, a weight is introduced. De-cluttering is often the first step to encouraging lightness to flow into our lives.
For physical things, challenge yourself to keep only what brings you joy. What gives you thrill when you pick it up, see it across the room, or wear it? A helpful decision-maker could be, if you walked into the same room tomorrow, what object could go missing and you wouldn’t even notice? Imagine if each thing added to a great load on your back. What are you willing to carry? If something gives you no joy, there is no emotional attachment to it, and it does not serve you, then give or donate it to someone else.
The same rules apply to all things electronic, like our listservs, discounts and sales notifications, interest meetups, and updates from college friends who you haven’t spoken to for eons. When adding up the little red notifications on our devices, how does that make you feel? Do they bring you joy? Has it been months since you paid attention to them? If they aren’t serving our emotions or personal and professional goals, then they are distractions. After incorporating these ideologies into tech, further challenge yourself to reduce the number of inbox items to zero (Yes, it can be done!) and keep it that way. Become familiar with inbox rules that automatically file what you need, respond to the urgent, and actually drill down to the essential items which demand your daily time and energy. Just because our e-mail can handle receiving hundreds of messages doesn’t mean we can. Our external environment typically reflects our internal environment, and it’s the easiest place to start.
The Joy of Now
The pursuit of more and the pursuit of happiness have become, like all good businesses, a 24/7 operation. Inside and out, we’re told and believe we must be happy now, all the time, and if you’re not happy you need to obtain The Thing that will bring you happiness forever and you definitely won’t be happy until you have it. So, we begin to live in ambiguous future dates of happiness. The problem with the pursuit of happiness is it’s an eternal pursuit. As soon as we obtain The Thing, we’re unfulfilled again, living in the next future moment.
Take a second pause and imagine any moment of your life that you would like to relive. Where are you? What are you doing? Who’s with you?
Pause again and imagine you’ve been given just 30 seconds left to live. Now what moment would you like to relive?
Chances are, you did not pick a moment when you obtained One More Thing. The stuff we allow into our lives – the letters, the people, the mementos – have a say in how they use our time, our mind, and ultimately our whole life. When we lose focus of our priorities, we begin to spin our wheels. If we let them, the non-essential will keep us busy in an illusion of productivity, but they will be just that: non-essential.
Organizing isn’t about making things perfect or tidy. It’s about learning to focus your energy on the projects, people, and resources that matter and reducing everything that would otherwise usurp that energy. Recognizing our priorities will help us decide what to organize and how to organize. Keeping those priorities centered and focused ultimately cultivates joy, a more fulfilling and more essential goal than the pursuit of happiness.