by Susan McCarthy
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Everyday practice: Focus on the next small action that you can take. If you can do it now, then you know it's the right step.
The decision to start a big project or to start working toward a goal comes with an endorphin hit. Instead of just wanting your life to look and feel different, you’ve decided to act. Feel-good hormones flood your body and you jump into action.
Let's say you've decided to declutter your home. Maybe you focus on one space, like your closet; or, you move around the house tackling the obvious clutter. You see some clear space, then a little more. Maybe you post a few before and after pictures on social media and talk to friends and coworkers about your decluttering high.
You’re convinced that you’ll have your entire house (including the attic and garage) clutter-free in record time. Woohoo!
Then, it takes you two hours to go through a single drawer. You start feeling a bit uptight about the money you spent on items you never used. Life gets busier and your progress slows. You start thinking that you need a break to regain your motivation.
Use Accountability to Stay Motivated
Some people love the idea of accountability, others, not so much. I was in the not-so-much camp until I realized that accountability can be achieved in different ways. If one method doesn’t work for you, try something else.
You might like the energy of a group or the camaraderie of supporting (and being supported by) a friend. You might like to read about other’s efforts in working toward a goal similar to yours. You might like to work on your own or to hire someone to help you stay on track.
The best method is … the one that works for you. For example, sometimes you need the information that makes sense to you. (A reason why I wrote the eBook, Conquer the Mess Your Way.)
Join an Online Group
You may find inspiration in others' successes. Online groups allow you to be voyeuristic and observe other people’s progress and stumbling blocks without commenting. Or, you can post your own progress and ask for opinions.
Posting your goals might be an incentive to do the work (even if no one ever checks in on your progress). If an online group doesn’t help your motivation, then this technique may be too passive for you. If you don’t like the vibe of a group you’ve joined, leave the group and try another.
Find a Goal Buddy
Even before I segued from teaching kids to helping people declutter, clutter was the focus of some of my conversations with friends. First, I was overwhelmed by all the stuff in my parents’ house and then I was sorting through their things and I needed to talk about the discoveries I was making (40+ cans of tuna fish, two shopping bags filled with used dryer sheets, several broken toasters kept “just in case”).
Finding a friend, family member, or coworker who is also in the process of decluttering, losing weight, or writing a novel can be both encouraging and motivating. You can chat once a week about what you hope to accomplish, cheer on each other’s progress, and commiserate when things don’t go the way you hoped.
You may even find times that you get together to help one another do the work – asking opinions about clothing in your closet, exchanging recipes, or asking for another set of eyes to look over your project.
One problem with a buddy is that it’s easy to talk about doing things but that doesn’t mean any decluttering actually gets done.
Track Your Efforts
If you aren’t thrilled by the idea of talking with anyone about your goal, but you struggle with staying motivated, consider using a habit tracker. This could be as simple as x-ing out the box on a calendar to signify that you completed your task for the day.
The purpose of a habit tracker is to create a visual of your consistent (or inconsistent) actions. You can look back over a month and see that your frustration with not reaching a milestone and see that you weren't as consistent with your actions as you planned.
To use a habit tracker, you want to set your expectation for each day. It could be to declutter for 15-minutes or to move five items into either the trash or a donation box. Without a clear expectation, it’s easy to falter. Also, if you anticipate doing more work than you can accomplish on a regular basis, you’ll feel frustrated that you’re working but that it doesn’t count toward your expectations. So keep your daily task small.
Work with a Professional
You can hire a trainer or coach for almost any goal. And don't worry about not finding someone local. You could work by phone, email, or video chat, which means you could even work with someone who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away.
For example, if you're looking for guidance - and accountability - in decluttering your home, you could work virtually with me.
Focus on Your Goal
Knowing why you want to accomplish your goal can help get you motivated. Setting a deadline can also keep you on track. But, if you notice that your attention and motivation is flagging, it’s time to try a technique – and a group, person, or tracker – that will help you stay accountable to your goals.
Sign up for emails from A Less Cluttered Life and learn how simple, everyday practices can eliminate the scattered feeling of trying to do too much. Join the free program, A Year of Decluttering, and get access to the 7-day e-course, Distraction-free Decluttering.
Other helpful articles:
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).