Each year about this time, I get the urge to start cleaning. Not just your everyday pick up around the house, but a really thorough Spring-clean. Closets get cleared; the garage floor gets scrubbed; kitchen cabinets are emptied and re-organized, etc. Afterward, I feel an amazing surge of energy and satisfaction. Like I have more space in the house; more room to move around, to relax, and an abiding sense of spaciousness.
This outer sense of spaciousness can easily be created as an internal experience as well, which we call Capacity. Many of us have limited capacity because our lives are filled with ‘stuff’, i.e., physical (possessions), mental (to-dos) and emotional (attention and energy ‘hooks’). Without enough capacity, it’s far more difficult to navigate our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and clients. Where there is no room for movement, we can lose our resiliency; we become restrictive in our way of being in relationship to others.
It’s a shame because even the simplest interactions bear tremendous potential when we have the capacity to fully embrace them. We might recognize an opportunity, or a connection that others don’t see. Yet when we feel rushed and busy, our minds full of thoughts and our time full of things to do, our capacity diminishes, resulting in ‘automatic’ transactional interactions: “Hi, how are you?” “Busy! How are you?” “Fine, busy too!”
So how does one develop capacity? Think of loading applications onto your iPhone – to increase capacity, you have to take something out. In life terms, it’s not necessarily easy, but letting go of thoughts, emotions, and possessions can make room for deeper levels of experience, discovery, and connection. A good start is to use the season’s opportunity for spring cleaning as a metaphor to practice in life.
Here are five ways you can create capacity in your own life:
Empty and organize ‘physical stuff’, e.g., files, closets, basements. Ask
• What does this item represent?
• What am I holding onto?
• What am I afraid to let go of?
• What is it costing me to keep it?
Empty your head:
• Do a routine mind-sweep to clear your head of mental clutter
Empty and organize your ’to-do’ list:
• Finish things that must be done, or can be completed in less than 2 minutes
• Decide to NOT do things; communicate that decision to others or renegotiate deadlines
• Delegate something
• Discern when to say “yes” and when to say “no.” Being clear on what your priorities are helps you to be able to say “no” with integrity
4. Clear your calendar:
• Remove events you are not going to attend
• Stop using your calendar as a “Someday Maybe” parking lot – move those items to the ‘Someday Maybe’ category or schedule the next action
• If you are double booked, cancel or reschedule one meeting and communicate that decision to others
Empty your Email Inbox:
• Every un-processed piece of email is an incomplete action in your mind – take the time to empty your inbox so your mind can be clear
• Use the 4 D’s to Delete it, Do it, Delegate it, or Defer it, but make a decision
When you take the time to spring clean your mind, space and task list, you create capacity. Now you can ask yourself, “what am I now free to do?” Maybe try a new hobby or a project from your ‘Someday/Maybe’ list, a vacation, or even read a good book!
~ Anne McGhee Stinson
Director of Practice