Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
How much stuff do you tote around that you don’t use? I want you to either go over the bags/backpacks/purses/etc in your mind, or actually unpack the bag(s) and lay it all out. Go on. I’ll wait.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that I advocate simplicity as a means to get to increased productivity. Today I want to talk about a productivity hindrance that can creep up without us being aware…and make it harder to get things done. Today we will talk about the amount of stuff you take with you from place to place and how it has a real impact on your productivity, both physically and mentally.
As many of you know, I have been attending classes to get my teaching license. This means that I have been in class Saturdays and Sundays from 9 to 5, as well as two four-hour sessions in the evenings during the week. We have multiple instructors covering differing subjects. We might need textbooks, or the small bound paper stacks, or computers. We may meet in a building that has climate problems, or no vending, or be far away from everything.
After the first class (where we were loaded down with 8 inches of reference papers plus a textbook) one of my classmates started toting around a wheeled box. This box was a cube 2 feet by 2 feet. Plus she also carried a huge purse, and a lunch bag. She would come into class and take three seats, explaining she needed room for her bags.
Bear in mind that all of our class materials would not fill up that cube. Further, if you paid attention to the schedule, you could easily fit what you needed for each class in a plastic grocery bag.
But during the classes, I have seen my classmate pull out of that cube not only her class materials, but a laptop, a tablet, a blanket, hat, mittens, socks, a change of shoes, a lumbar support pillow, a full array of office supplies and art supplies.
I Am Not Immune
I tell you this story because it was an extreme example, and when I noticed myself noticing her packrat tendencies, I turned my eyes to the stuff I had with me. And I realized that I am not immune.
During the last class I had with me my course book, a pencil sharpener (full classroom size – for others to see), my laptop, an external mouse, my daily planner, a clipboard with extra paper, a coffee cup, water bottle, lunch and snacks.
And my work bag is worse. Beside my work laptop, I have an external keyboard, a laptop riser, rubber fabric to hold things in place, my client notebook, my notepad holder, and usually my iPad, my daily planner and my blog planner.
I haul a lot of stuff with me “in case.” In case I have free time. In case I am bored. In case I need something.
What Hauling Stuff Does To You
What I have noticed is that the more stuff I carry with me, the more I have to move around to get work done. I am constantly shifting things around, even when I have a large table to work with.
I tried leaving things in the bag, but I found myself pulling out all sorts of stuff to get to the things I needed, which always seemed to drift down to the bottom.
I also notice that my eyes will fall on something and get distracted. I am looking for my client notes and I see my blog planner. “I really need to plan next month,” I think, and I am no longer focused for a few moments on my client task at hand. Then I have to get my mind back in the game, even if I do nothing that think about the item on the desk.
Why We Should Cut Back
Carrying too much stuff with us either gets in the way physically mentally. Right-sizing, or taking only what you need, is going to help you operate at peak efficiency.
Think about it. Do you spend more or less time looking through a stack of papers or one piece? Do you get distracted by stuff around you, or can you focus better when there is nothing distracting.
A Simple Way To Cut Back
As with most simplicity concepts, the key here is deliberation.
I find that most of the time, the extra stuff I am carrying around is either because I want to be prepared for very unlikely circumstances, or I simply just add to a bag without ever fully unpacking it.
What has worked for me is a two step method: 1) unpack the bag when I get home; and 2) be realistic about what I carry with me for a given event.
I also make sure that I carry a bag for each activity. If I am going to a Girl Scout meeting after work, I leave the house with my work bag and my Girl Scout leader bag. (I talked about this in How a Simple Bag Became a Magic Organizational Tool)
Don’t Let Other People Give You Their Stuff
Here’s a tangential I have learned from my Girl Scouts: don’t let others give you their stuff to carry.
If I take a backpack with me on an outing to carry the release forms and first aid kit, inevitably the girls will all hand me something to carry.
The last outing, I put copies of the papers in a small first aid kit, and tossed it into my purse. When the girls started handing me things, I said one thing:
“I am your leader. I am not a sherpa.”
One girl was upset, because she had brought a huge purse that was loaded down with electronics, snacks and who knows what else. Yes, I made her carry her own bag, and pointed out to her that it probably wasn’t necessary to bring two gaming systems for a three-hour outing where we would be walking around. I hope she learned her lesson.
Since I have become more aware of what I am bringing with me, I have been more deliberate about what I am taking. I am less likely to be distracted, and I don’t have to search for what I need.
Over To The Readers
How did your own inventory go? Do you use all that stuff? Can you pare down? What do you think it would give you to leave stuff at home?
Photo by eXtensionHorses. Licensed under Creative Commons.