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Edit Yourself

Urgent deadlines. Demanding clients. Unexpected “fires.” Pressure to perform…There are few circumstances at work or home that you can’t improve with some thoughtful editing. Yes, editing. When you edit your writing, you cut away clutter so that the main ideas stand out starkly and flow most coherently. We are all editors in our own lives, deciding what we will emphasize and what we will not. By tapping into your inherent editing skills, you can simplify your life and work—becoming more productive and more relaxed at the same time.

Begin by identifying your own strengths as an editor. Recognize where you have successfully rearranged thoughts, things, or circumstances to your advantage. For me, it began with physical objects. When I was a child, my family moved on average every year. Each time we packed, my parents encouraged me to edit my toys and clothes, tossing what no longer fit me, figuratively or literally. Next, I learned to edit my words. My father had a short attention span so if I wanted to tell a story or ask a question, I had to get right to the point. I later became a professional writer and editor. Today, as a Productivity Coach, I help my clients edit their material possessions, emails, schedules, commitments, task lists, and even mental clutter. That’s my editing story. What’s yours?

Even if you are chronically disorganized or just love to be surrounded by “stuff,” you’re an experienced editor. Maybe you garden. In that case, you’ve deleted many weeds. Maybe you love photography. You take hundreds of pictures but share only the best online. If you’ve ever texted, tweeted, or posted to Facebook, you know a LOT about editing words and ideas. And if you’ve ever faced unexpected visitors and had to run around your messy house, prioritizing which items to clean, hide, or forget about, you know how to edit your stuff.

You have the technology. It’s just a matter of applying it. Here are some areas that would benefit from editing:

  • Your task list. You have so many things you COULD do. Given your current circumstances, resources, and other priorities, which can you realistically accomplish? Continually edit out the items at the bottom of your list and you’ll eliminate a hundred pounds of unnecessary pressure in your life.
  • Your commitments. Edit your obligations so that you spend your time in ways that reflect your values. If family is most important to you, for example, limit the boards and organizations you join until your kids are older and you have more time.
  • Your possessions. If you don’t use it, love it, or need it, why have it? Delete anything that can’t pass that acid test—from papers and emails to books, knickknacks, and clothes. Delete it especially if it makes you feel guilty or bad or somehow inadequate.
  • Your folders (digital or manila). It’s better to have one folder with 30 documents inside than 6 folders with 5 documents each. People rarely re-visit files, so editing simplifies future searches.
  • Your associates. Life is too short to waste on negativity. You can’t chose your family or coworkers but you can choose your friends. Edit out those who bring you down and replace them with people who support you in being your best self.

By making strategic edits in your life, you create the space to accomplish more and enjoy yourself more.