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Optimize Your Starting Line: Clean

Be Proactive and clean up…

Yes, I know, you’ve heard from Steven Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) that you “begin with the end in mind.” But even Covey made that his second habit.

You see, the problem is, most people don’t know what the “end” is. When times are good, we have the luxury of planning our days with six-month goal setting, three and five-year plans, down to the accolades your throng of followers will recite at your funeral.

This last year isn’t one of those years. Many of us have had our “goals” rug-pulled from under us. With incompetents in charge and radicals in the streets, it may be impossible to see what lies ahead, regardless of our goals.

Sometimes you need to optimize for the starting line, not the finish line.

Be Proactive

Your first step toward becoming a bigger citizen and a more effective person is to become unstuck.
Arnold Schwarzenegger - Ladder of Success

THIS — being proactive — is Covey’s first habit. He talks about being responsible; that is, “response-able.”  Instead of focusing on who or what is thwarting our “end,” focus on your ability to make some better.

Again, these are the first steps of Kaizen. Begin with small questions and small thoughts. You may begin with:

Then take action, small as it may be, in the direction of those answers. The key here is simply to become active.

But even at the beginning, you should know one of my favorite quotes, one that you should post on your screen, your bathroom mirror and your refrigerator until you internalize it:

“What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”

Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. is full of great ideas that boil down to the above sentence.

If you begin each day with this question, your mind will start looking for answers. Your subconscious is very good at being lazy — in fact, it works hard at being lazy, finding the simplest, easiest solutions that sometimes elude you.

You may discover that, instead of struggling with “Problem 1,”  answering for a more strategic “Problem 2” may make “Problem 1” irrelevant.  

For example, if your family is spends too much money on water and detergent to run your dish washer daily, 

Your First Action Step: Clean

If your life’s a mess, there’s no better place to start. If you’re stuck and can’t afford an expensive solution, cleaning up is the best first step toward being proactive. Here are some suggestions:

Clean your Technology:

Your computer

  • Desktop
  • Downloads
  • Documents
  • Software
  • Browser
  • Bookmarks

Your phone

  • Photo Gallery
  • Messages
  • Voicemails
  • Contacts
  • Apps

Clean your Content:

Your distractions

  • Unsubscribe from newsletters
  • Disable most notifications
  • Uninstall apps/software
  • Deactivate accounts
  • Cancel subscriptions

Your accounts

  • Email
  • Drive/Storage
  • Instant Messengers
  • Social Media
  • Bookkeeping

Clean your Environment:

  • Bedroom
  • Closets
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Living Room
  • Car
  • Garage
  • Yard
  • Desk/PC
  • Work area
  • Pantry/community areas
We’ll cover your financial life separately. Right now, at this stage, we’re just considering our connections, the things that influence us, and cleaning up.

Again, if you’re overwhelmed, picked one section per day. For example, my children are absolute slobs. Their room is a constant disaster area. So, I gave them a task: “Take the next 20 minutes before bed, start with the main play table: put the toys away and clean the surface so you can use it again tomorrow.”

The next day, “Clean the play table again, and the everything directly under the table. Use a broom if you have to.” I kept the process going for the rest of the week, and we chased that mess around until we realized we needed to go on to the next step…

Your Kaizen Journey

We’re just getting started and a lot is going to come onboard.