“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” – William Morris.
I promise, contrary to what the quote suggests, I’m not encouraging you to do a big early spring cleaning in your house! No Konmari method to sort through your clothes, your bathroom cupboards or the books in your library.
But instead, I wanted to propose you a simple challenge: perform 1 action per day for 5 days to unclutter your work and living environment. Objective of the challenge: make room for what really matters and for what is important to YOU.
So I propose 5 easy actions to do in 5 days to see a little more clearly and to be able to concentrate on the essential: your goals!
5 days of focus challenge – day 1
Unclutter your phone
Let’s start simple for the first day!
If, like me, you have a smartphone, it’s probably full of various and varied applications. Some are useful for everyday use, but others are probably not worth the space they take up in your phone’s memory.
I can’t count the number of applications I installed to test them, and that I never reopened because the experiment was not conclusive.
Having your applications sorted and organized will save you time: you always have the tool you’re looking for at your fingertips, without having to rummage through the 150 icons on your home screen.
Time for action: 15 min.
- Start by reviewing the applications that are installed on your phone. Uninstall any applications that you are not using or no longer using. No mercy!
- Organize the applications you have left by topic group.
For example, you can create a “Navigation” folder that includes Waze, Google maps, and City mapper.
Classify all of your applications, keeping as shortcuts the applications that are really useful to you on a daily basis.
BONUS (+ 2 minutes): You can also take advantage of this small sorting to set a usage limit for certain applications such as social networks for example.
It’s a feature found on most smartphones. On mine, it’s in the “Digital well-being” part of the usage settings.
Ask yourself which apps you spend the most time on for no reason and limit their use to 30 minutes a day.
This is what I did for Instagram for example, and I can tell you that my concentration says thank you!
5 days of focus challenge – day 2
Eliminate unnecessary notifications
We stay on our phone for the second day of the challenge, and we take the time to set up our notifications.
No more untimely notifications, we only keep the essentials. Objective: avoid being tempted by your phone and keep your concentration as much as possible.
Time for action: 10 minutes
- Go to your phone’s settings in the “Applications and Notifications” tab. It can be called differently depending on your phone model (notification center…).
- Manage the settings for the installed applications. I advise you to disable almost all notifications, apart from phone and SMS. You don’t need to receive a notification for every email you receive: it’s better to control the time slots in which they are processed.
- You may not have time to cover ALL your applications in 10 minutes. The next time an unnecessary notification appears, take the necessary 10 seconds to turn off notifications for the app in question.
5 days of focus challenge – day 3
Clean your mailbox
We’re tackling your email inbox for this third simplification action: we take care of newsletter subscriptions!
I don’t propose you a tutorial to manage your mailbox like a .e pro, already because I’m far from being an example in this matter (hum hum), but also because you’ll find a lot of great articles about it. And we’re not going to lie to each other, organizing a mailbox from top to bottom will surely take you half a day.
What I’m proposing instead is to take a quick and easy first step towards a slightly less crowded mailbox by unsubscribing from all the newsletters you receive (and haven’t always requested).
When it comes to “cleaning” your mailbox of all these subscriptions, 2 schools are competing: the manual sorting school and the cleaning software school.
“Cleaning up” your mailbox manually
Time for action: say 30 minutes but it depends on how many newsletters you subscribe to.
- Review your main inbox.
If you tend not to open the newsletters you receive, filter the unread mails.
- Open the unwanted mails and unsubscribe manually by clicking on the link usually located at the bottom of the mail.
Be careful, some unsubscriptions will be very quick, others will ask you to connect to your customer account if it is a merchant site. (😑)
” Cleaning up” your mailbox automatically
Time for action: 15 minutes
No mini tutorial for this part, because I haven’t tested the services that offer to clean up your mailbox for free: everyone will ask for access to your data and contacts, and I honestly don’t want anyone to put their nose in this information.
That being said, here are the options available to you if you want to clean your mailbox of newsletters in a few clicks.
While many sites will recommend Unroll.me to clean up your subscriptions, I’d probably turn to Cleanfox instead. It’s free, French and fully compliant with European data protection laws (which is not the case for Unroll.me or Mailstrom for example).
Little tip: once you’re done with your big digital spring cleaning, go to your mailbox settings and revoke the application’s access to your personal data. That way, you’re sure no one will access your data.
Speaking of newsletters: if you’ve subscribed to the blog’s newsletter and you don’t want to receive it anymore, it’s here : unsubscribe now
I promise, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to read my prose every week 😉
5 days of focus challenge – day 4
Declutter your mind
On the fourth day, I suggest you clear your head.
This challenge will probably take you the longest, but believe me, it’s worth it!
You will come out of the exercise much more serene and with clear ideas.
This exercise is based on the mental inventory exercise described by Ryder Carroll in his book “the Bullet Journal method”.
The aim is to clear your brain of all the tasks and projects that occupy it, and to sort out what is important and what is superfluous.
Mental inventory spread inspired by Tiny Ray of Sunshine
Time for action: 45 minutes
- Take a sheet of paper or a blank page from your notebook.
As if you had to sort through a closet, start by taking out everything that’s cluttering up your brain: list everything you’re working on (projects and tasks), everything you should be working on, and everything you’d like to work on. You can divide the sheet into 3 columns to help you organize your ideas.
- You have your mental inventory in front of you.
For each item listed, ask yourself:
– Is it vital or mandatory? (pay the rent, take care of taxes…)
– Is that important to me or to someone I love?
If the answer is no to both of these questions, it’s time to stop bothering yourself with this task or project.
- Take your planner and start organizing the remaining items to make them your daily priority.
5 days of focus challenge – day 5
We finish the week by tidying up our workspace!
The idea is to create a more serene environment for you by uncluttering your office.
Having a tidy desk will help you avoid distractions: any object that is in your immediate environment without you needing it is unnecessary “noise”.
Having a tidy desk will help you keep your mind clear and focused, without anything that can distract you unexpectedly.
Time for action: 15 minutes
- Gather everything on your desk (current project files, books, your stapler…) into a pile and sort it.
- Keep only what you need to work:
– a computer
– paper and a pencil if you need to write down
… And that’s it!
Of course adapt this list to the needs of your business. But the aim is to keep your desk as uncluttered as possible to avoid distractions.
- Organize all the small useful equipment (such as a stapler) and your current files in a handy drawer. You need to have easy access to them, but don’t need to keep them on your desk when you’re not using them.
BONUS: Make it a point to leave your mobile phone aside. You can leave it in a drawer or in your bag/pocket. In any case, unless you need to make a call, you don’t need to have it on hand.
Of course, the list could have gone on and on… Because decluttering your ENTIRE environment to make room for what matters would probably take a bit more than 5 days. But sometimes, we just need to change a small thing to feel more at peace and create the space we need for focus.
What did you change in your daily life that helps you be more focused?
Hey! I’m Claire.
I’m a freelance innovation consultant, and founder of Minimal.Plan.
I believe that moving towards your goals one day at a time can help you live a more intentional and happy life.
That’s why I share planning, time management and motivation tips on this blog, and design tools to help you get organized to conquer your goals!