We’ve all tried to help someone see a blind spot, even if you’re not a coach like I am. It’s often not easy. You can probably relate:
Client: Can you help me run faster?
Coach: Sure. What ideas do you have for getting that result?
Client: Do you have a system that can help? Like better shoes?
Coach: Hmm. Maybe. What about those leg shackles?
Client: What, those? Those have always been there. They’re not so bad.
Coach: Really? Have you ever taken them off to see?
Client: Take them off?
The undoing is usually where the answers are, but they can be the hardest to see. The state of unproductivity I first help people eliminate is like the shackles. It’s so off the radar for most people I had to give it a new name: “Chronic Overwhelm.” And when you rid yourself of it, you can experience a freedom unlike you’ve ever felt.
Generally, we think of overwhelm as an “acute” state. Something suddenly happens and we’re temporarily overwhelmed while we get our bearings.You hopefully aren’t in this kind of overwhelm right now, because you know you can’t stay there long: it’s unsustainable.
But chronic overwhelm is different. It’s a state of constant, low to moderate, unnecessary static, stress and clutter that is very much normal in our society and makes people less intelligent, skilled and aware. And here’s the scary part:
You can be crippled by chronic overwhelm your entire life and not even know it.
It’s an epidemic in our world today. Don’t believe me? Leave your phone at home for a day. Don’t check your email for a weekend. Feel that anxiety? That’s a withdrawal symptom from the drug that chronic overwhelm is. It’s normal, but not healthy. I feel it, too. It’s part of our culture now, and it’s only a problem if we don’t manage it.
How do you know if you’re chronically overwhelmed? What can you do about it? Kurt Lucero is a Clear and Open member and owner of The Cleanery in Albuquerque. He wrote the community about an extraordinary experience last week:
When I cleaned and organized my desk this week I found myself saying “now what?” What am I going to do? It’s not like I was really doing anything with the stuff that was on my desk, but it sure was a strange feeling and I didn’t quite know what to do for a moment. I realized the clutter made me feel busy. Such a strange feeling. It opened up endless possibilities of things to accomplish. I felt like I was now much more in control of my day.
This is what it looks like when you emerge from chronic overwhelm. Kurt diligently applied the Clear Workspace, Open Mind course and beautifully captures an experience many people go their whole lives never having: a moment of organizational enlightenment. I hold that this kind of clarity is the natural state for human beings, and that includes you. Congratulations, Kurt, your life will never be the same!
Some of you must think I’m a productivity geek. And, well, it’s true, but the geek part is effect, not cause. I actually used to be messier than most, before I had my own moment of organizational enlightenment about ten years ago.
The reason I constantly beat the drum for people to get organized is because so much depends on it. Kurt is going to lead his business from a completely different place in himself from now on. Getting organized IS leadership development, the most fundamental kind there is, because it unlocks your potential from the inside out.
It’s become cliché to say things like, “You have all of your own answers,” and “Everything you need is already inside you.” But how do you unlock, and real-ize those things that are supposedly already there? Being busy and living a cluttered life keeps your gifts locked up inside you, and most people live this way, chronically overwhelmed, looking for add-on answers and things to do, rather than doing what matters most: the undoing of all that’s overwhelming them. How do you find out what that is? That’s what Clear Workspace, Open Mind is all about.
Whatever dreams you’re pursuing need all of you, not part of you, and that means you must get organized. If you think you’re there already, I challenge you to take this free assessment and find out. See if you score better than 80%. The average is about 40%. Many highly productive (but overwhelmed) people score below 20%. People who truly understand the power of getting organized make it a spiritual practice, always wondering where they hold themselves back.
I realize this can be difficult to accept–it’s hard to look at how you’re in your own way. It may be a blind spot for you. I know. I’ve had conversations that go like the following for years (exaggerated for entertainment purposes)
Client: I want to improve X.
Me: Okay, here’s how you do that.
Client: Great, I’ll give that a shot.
Two weeks pass…
Me: So how’s that X thing going?
Client: Oh, I haven’t gotten to it.
Me: Really? Why not?
Client: I’m too busy.
Me: Hmm, what can you do about that?
Client: I guess I’ll just try harder.
Me: Okay, let’s see how that works.
Two weeks pass…
Me: So how that X thing going?
Client: What X thing? I’m so busy I forgot. Besides, I have a new idea. Can you help me build Y?
Me: I could, yes, but I think X is probably more important.
Client: But I’m really excited about Y, and besides I didn’t find myself engaged in X.
Me: Why not?
Client: I don’t know.
Me: What if you’re chronically overwhelmed in a way that’s sapping your focus, scattering your mind, and draining your most important resource: time? Let’s consider your lack of self-organization as the root issue here and get organized.
Client: Naw, I really think Y is the solution. Let’s talk about that, it’s more fun. And I like fun. Besides, what you’re talking about sounds like change, and change is hard. I’d prefer to focus on easy, fun things that feel good, and I’m a business leader so I’m used to getting what I want.
Get Organized: Do You Want to Be Busy or Be Free?
It’s true: change can be hard, but it’s even harder when you avoid it. Inevitably in our lives, whatever we want requires us to change something about ourselves, and a part of us kicks and screams and wants to get whatever it is without having to change.
Stop fighting and surrender. It’s been said that a coach helps you do what you don’t want to do so that you get what you want.
What if you just stopped the “I don’t wanna”? You already know how. If you exercise regularly, you’re choosing short-term discomfort for long-term benefit. If you keep your finances well-organized, if you are careful about what you eat, if you practice a musical instrument, etc. You’re already doing this somewhere in your life. You know how to be bigger than the “I don’t wanna” voice.
The Logic of Getting Organized
But do you get organized? Because that’s the place where change you may need the most. Here’s the logic that sums it all up:
- What you want requires you to change.
- Change is hard, it requires a lot of your resources.
- Disorganization dilutes those resources via chronic overwhelm.
- Therefore, getting well-organized is a key foundation for change.
Engaging in dream pursuit without being super well-organized is like running a marathon with shackles on your ankles. You can try it, but why would you? Look around you. Look at your desk. Look at the computer desktops, home screens, desk drawers of your coworkers. Wherever you see clutter you see wasted energy, unnecessary effort, and most tragically, languishing dreams.
If you don’t get organized, whatever you work on is harder than it needs to be, and you can’t have any idea how much harder until you get organized. What if there’s a moment of organizational enlightenment waiting for you in your near future? There are no shortcuts in life, but this is about as close as it gets. It’s way easier than giving up chocolate.