Gunk of Low-Energy Living: disorganized

A number of my clients stress over feeling disorganized.

They talk about finding the right time management system, decluttering once and for all, or finding a new and improved way to tackle their To Do list.

Unfortunately, none of those strategies address the root cause of the problem. Which means the symptoms associated with feeling disorganized will persist, including:

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • projects left in various states of not started or half done
  • always running late or behind
  • feeling weighed down and distracted by clutter
  • believing a silver bullet storage solution or time management system will solve the problem
  • not feeling in control of your time or your environment
  • spending an inordinate amount of time corralling paper through sorting, filing, and organizing
  • an endless To Do list
  • perception there’s never enough time
  • believing disorganization is your personal character flaw
  • living or working in an energy-sapping environment
  • running on adrenaline
  • wasting time looking for things
  • procrastination
  • over emphasis on doing rather than being
  • feeling frustrated and ashamed when you miss opportunities related to disorganization
  • believing life would be so much better if you could “once and for all get organized”

It’s a depressing list, isn’t it?

These symptoms are real and really draining

But they are only symptoms—a signal of something—not the root cause of feeling disorganized. Failing to make that distinction—symptom versus root cause—is the source of endless headache, disappointment, and frustration.

For instance, if you think it’s the clutter around you making you feel disorganized, it would seem sensible—even smart—to address the clutter.

Perhaps you’ve done just that by culling some of your stuff or buying fancy new storage containers and rearranging and reorganizing. But you eventually end up back where you started: Feeling disorganized.

You always end up where you started when you address symptoms rather than root causes.

A few months ago one of my clients came across a new To Do list app for her smartphone. She was convinced this new app was going to help her stop procrastinating, manage her To Dos, get more done more easily, and feel in control of her schedule, herself, and her life.

The magic app that will solve everything.

You know where this is going: The app did none of those things. No, I take that back. The app did all of those things for a little while, and then it did none of those things—leaving my client feeling even more discouraged than before.

That’s the downside of addressing symptoms rather than root causes.

You expend a lot of energy, are momentarily excited thinking you’ve finally got a handle on something, and then feel worse off than when you started. This creates the dreaded, debilitating cycle of failure that becomes difficult to break.

The cure is not new storage bins

If feeling disorganized is merely a symptom, then the cure is not new storage bins, a To Do list app on your iPhone, or finally cleaning the garage.

The good news is anyone can stop feeling disorganized by addressing root causes rather than staying stuck in the symptoms. The root causes of feeling disorganized are:

  • Lack of clarity about what you want for your life
  • Failing to make decisions and take action based on the life you want to create

And so the “cure” for feeling disorganized is two-fold: Get clear about the life you want and then honor your deeper yes. Let’s look at each of these:

1. Get clear about the life you want. In other words, have a vision for your best life.

  • If you’re not clear about the life you want to to live, how can you know what should be included and excluded—from possessions to commitments to ways of being?
  • How do you know what to spend your time on versus what to say “no” to?
  • If you don’t have a vision for your life, what guides your daily decisions, the commitments you make, and what you spend your time on?

Having clarity about the life you want to live gives you a blueprint for everything—from what to put on your To Do list and bring into your home to what you wear and eat, to the mindset you adopt and how you show up in the world.

Have no doubt: Feeling disorganized has everything to do with not being clear about the life you want.

With a crystal clear picture of the life you want to live, there’s no confusion about what’s included in that life and what isn’t—and the symptoms of feeling disorganized fade.

2. Honor your deeper yes. In other words, build up your “muscle” for making decisions and taking action based on the life you want to create.

This means letting the vision you have for your best life truly guide your day-to-day decisions and actions. Easy to say, but often more challenging to actually do.

There’s no point in having a vision for your life if you’re not willing to think and act in alignment with it.

When you design and live your life firmly rooted in your deeper yes, feeling disorganized doesn’t stand a chance. Struggling with priorities, which is so often connected to disorganization, ceases.Stephen Covey wisely said, “It’s easy to say “no!” when there’s a deeper “yes!” burning inside.”

I’ve witnessed time and again

When clarity is coupled with aligned action, disorganization disappears.

In other words, when someone in a frenzied state of feeling disorganized gets clear about what they want and starts taking action in that direction, the long-endured disorganization that baffled them simply fades away.

Do you complain about feeling disorganized? Is your first instinct to address symptoms? Are you willing to try something different and focus on root causes instead?