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Bringing Order to the Chaos of Life: Clean Your Room, Schedule, and Exercise

By James Stewart
September 30 2020


In this busy world, how does one break free from overwhelm that prevents getting started or taking action on dreams and goals?


How does one find time and started with exercise, keeping healthy, or any other needed change? 


These are important questions – and sadly, many people struggle with them. Many people fail to make progress, not because they are necessarily too lazy or unmotivated; but, sometimes the chaos of life is a burden all of us can struggle to manage.

Success builds upon order, and its chaos in the mind that paralyses even the most capable of individuals. Chaos often manifests from the chaos in the local environment.

The things we want and desire can quickly clutter up your mind, making you feel overwhelmed and like there isn’t enough time. In the brain fog that results, you might end up paralysed by something called “decision fatigue”, whereby you can often waste entire days, weeks, months and even years making little to no progress. You know there are things you need to do, actions to take, but it just doesn’t happen.

If you’re anything like me, your mind is full of ideas about how fantastic your life can be if you achieve certain long held goals and ambitions. But switching those thoughts into action can sometimes feel like trying to break free from quicksand or simply too overwhelming to fit it into the day.

This is because human beings are creatures of inertia and we become set in our routines of inaction. Getting started on something new involves breaking patterns and old routines, so often it is simply getting started on something new that is the hardest step of all. However, what you might fail to consider is how many of these roadblocks are being caused by easily resolvable shortfalls in your home life and your ability to effectively structure your day.

Success builds upon order, and its chaos in the mind that paralyses even the most capable of individuals. Chaos often manifests from the chaos in the local environment.

Pyschologist Jordan Peterson mentioned something that really stuck in my mind for a long time and what I have used successfully to break through patterns of anxiety, self-loathing, laziness, procrastination, and mental paralysis. Peterson says the first step you must take to bring any order to the chaos of your life is to simply “clean your room.”

This may sound like an odd task on first thought, but when you stop and actually think about it, it makes complete sense. The idea is simple: how can you possible bring any order to any of the chaos in your life outside of home, if you cannot even keep your home environment orderly? Peterson asks you to consider whether the chaos, really is just your house, or is that actually your being? Is that your mind? The answer, according to Peterson, is there’s really no difference.

He says, that if you want to organise your psyche, you should start by organising your room. A chaotic mind starts from the environment your immerse yourself within, and if the safest and most comfortable space in your life is cluttered, disorganised and chaotic, then its no surprise when other areas of your life will fall into that pattern. And we all know how it feels once we clean up around our place. While we dislike the act of doing the cleaning, we feel a whole lot better once its done. Like a weight is lifted our shoulders...

Whenever you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by anything in your life, make sure you take the few minutes when you are at home to start cleaning up your environment. Take a deep breath and then give yourself permission to just spend two minutes on this task. Of course, you can continue longer if you like, but don’t feel like you need to make it a massive undertaking. Don’t think you’re going to spend 4 hours cleaning, just do something small and let the momentum take you forward. A little bit each day is better than trying to schedule in a big block of time in your already busy day.

Peterson says that if you cannot get started at all, then you might need some smaller goals. You have to shrink your goals to a point where you've established a plan forward that consists of steps that not only are you willing to take, but that you would take. Ultimately, you have to find those steps forward that you would take.

Start to make cleaning your room/house a routine every day until it sticks and it stays clean every single day. If you can’t manage it, then make the routine even easier. If you can only do 1-2 minutes then make that the routine and slowly increase the time each day until you can manage to keep it clean in only a few short minutes each day. Return to this article and keep chipping away at it until you can make it a permanent daily task you do.

Secondly, use a calendar to schedule and structure your days. Have you ever noticed you are a lot more productive in the morning, and you become far less resilient as the day goes on? This is all to do with decision fatigue, and once you understand this, you can really use simple planning to your advantage.  Now don’t make this is a rigid schedule where you become your own slave driver.  Peterson suggests the right way to use a calendar is to create days you would really like to have. Make sure your morning schedule is setting you up positively for the day ahead.

Peterson says scheduling is crucial because if you know what you're doing tomorrow it decreases your anxiety substantially. He says you need that kind of structure; you need a pathway; you need to have a map; and you need to know where you're located on the map; and you need to know how you're moving forward.

Peterson then declares that you must be orientated towards something otherwise you’re going to live life disorientated, and when you’re orientated towards nothing, then you suffer and so do people around you. So, you must orient yourself toward something … you have to figure it out what it is, what will work for you. You must piece that together. 

What is the process? Peterson says cleaning your room, organising your local landscape, and scheduling your time are the ways to start taking control of yourself.

Peterson says this intervention is one of the most important things he saw in his clinical practice of helping people make successful changes in their lives. He explains that a schedule gives you hope because you can clearly see that you are moving toward a goal you regard as worthwhile. The resulting mental improvement reduces anxiety because suddenly your subconscious feels it is not entirely directionless and lost.

You must be orientated towards something otherwise you’re going to live life disorientated, and when you’re orientated towards nothing, then you suffer and so do people around you.

Without a schedule your mind can rarely relax, because you’re basically trying to schedule your whole life within your short-term memory and keep it there. It doesn't really work well, and it just stresses the brain. There are so many thoughts – real or perceived – that create mental chaos and ultimately decision fatigue. By knowing what routine leads you to where, you can reliably reduce anxiety and to shift away from mental fatigue to trying to keep everything you need or should be doing in your operating memory. This process substantially improves your ability to consistently achieve desired outcomes.

I also believe it is really important to schedule your discretionary free time outside of work. I crucially recommend scheduling your social media and internet time as one of the most important things you can do. Social media is a particularly insidious time consumer. It often chews up time in small increments, so often you may not even notice how much time is spent on it throughout the day.  It’s ok to spend time on social media if its important to you, but make sure you schedule for windows of time when you do it and try to stick to those windows of time only.

An important realisation happens once you create a schedule. Time tracking will help convince you, you do actually have time to exercise and to fit in time for all those hobbies and other things you’ve always wanted to do: maybe learning a new language, or some creative task like drawing or painting. Put half an hour or one hour in your schedule tomorrow for something new you've been putting off -- and you'll find you probably had that free time available that was being squandered each day from your lacking of structure.

Furthermore, the simple truth about exercise is that it is one of the best life teachers of how you can bring order to the chaos of life. Exercise teaches you in clearly understood terms that you can accomplish a humungous task by breaking it into small chunks. If you consider the example of strength training, you can see how it takes months and years of slow incremental progression to increase strength to much higher levels than when you started. The visual outcome of this discipline is increased muscle mass and feats of strength you previously couldn't do. You might not be able to do 100 push ups in a row, but you can certainly do 100 push ups by doing them in sets of 5 or 10 and then slowly increasing the amount per set, or decreasing the rest time between sets over time.  Eventually if you work hard enough at the task you can achieve the overall goal. Exercise is a great example of how scheduled routine of patience and discipline applies to success.  Schedule the rest of your life the same way you would schedule a strength training routine and your life will become a whole lot more successful and your mind a lot more relaxed.