Made to Measure – de-clutter your mind

Originally posted on 28th May 2015

I am on holiday, I am sitting on one of those fold up chairs covered in a printed flowery material and it’s sunny, I am wearing sun block, there are daisies scattered through the grass and my dog is fast asleep at my feet.  These are the days that I dreamed of when I left my successful banking career, right ?

Well sort of, it’s true that it’s sunny, I am the master of my own destiny and I am not at a windowless desk, but it’s not ideal.  The wind is whipping past, my hair is blowing in my eyes and my phone signal is not reliable.

That’s frustrating as I am really still at work – self-employed often means being on call and keeping connected to the real world which is proving complicated for the people around and me.

So, it’s while I am sitting here in “relative” quiet I can’t help but think about simplification and how I am much happier, much better at thinking and make more sustainable decisions when I take away the clutter – maybe it’s a good thing my phone is not ringing.

When I think about taking away clutter at work I’m not talking about the Lean process improvement stuff that simplifies what you do.

I want you to focus on how you do it.  I want you to take away the things that fill up your mind, I want your distractions to be managed and you to feel like your job fits you like a well-tailored suit..

These are my top 3 tips for fashioning a simpler working life;

Communicate clearly and concisely

Make it hard for people to misunderstand and say it exactly as it is. Most conflict at work comes from misunderstanding and jumping to conclusions so become succinct (not brusque) and get to the point quicker.  Get physical, remember that a huge amount of communication is visual, based upon body language and facial expressions.  If it’s tough do it face to face or on video conference so that the listener has a chance to properly listen with their whole selves.  Become a listener yourself, stop planning or second guessing what you will say while someone else is talking – (yes, we all do it!) – if you stop you will have more time to observe the full conversation and be less likely to misunderstand the other person.

Know your boundaries

That means know your values too so that you are clear on what borders are non-negotiable and what are really frontiers to your happiness .  As above, say it as it is with no fluff, just factually so that it’s transparent – this is a really big deal, it’s so easy for people to stay an extra hour and to convince yourself that it’s the right thing.  Perfectionists, and people with not good enough drivers like me will find this really tough because it might mean you feel you are only giving 80% – re-frame and get in the habit of being 100% good with your boundaries instead.  I found it useful to create a structure, for example letting everyone know about an evening class gave me permission to prioritise the things I needed for me.

Structure your email time

I have come to the opinion that looking at your email first thing in the morning derails you for the whole day. Any planning you did becomes defunct because someone has electronically shouted and you scramble to respond to their needs as a priority.  Of course I get that sometimes that’s exactly the job, we need to look early as it may be business, customer or people critical, but in managerial or leadership roles I think that’s less common.  In those roles if you have made a plan it’s more likely to be strategically important and for the greater good, so try to get some of your own stuff done first.  Be strict, if it is not urgent don’t do it right now, delegate or schedule it.  Use those fancy tools your email system provides to flag it, label it or add it to your diary at a later stage.  It sounds like good way to ramp up your impact, so that you can focus on the real priorities and shout louder than your inbox.


Actions stimulate our thinking.  Remember not all clutter is bad, sometimes it’s super beneficial, for example you might be creatively inspired, it might help you look from a new perspective or it might keep you safe. Thinking stirs our feelings, so working out how the clutter supports you personally helps you decide how much you care about it. Feeling motivates our actions.  If you care about it and want to keep the clutter then sew it right into the fabric of your role, or if you don’t, discard it as scrap, forever resigned to the remnant’s basket.

I’d love to help you connect with you values and create a working life that is well-tailored to you.

Need some help ? 

To set up an exploratory “getting to know you” session contact me email


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