Maintain Order and Increase Happiness by Preventing Broken Windows
As I look around my office, home, or inbox, I consider small items such as conference material to sort, dishes to wash, or calendar entries to approve, as broken windows. They clutter my space and manifest uneasy feelings.
The comparison stems from the criminological Broken Windows Theory which suggests if windows are broken and not cared for promptly, then they are a symbolize that no one is in charge. Eventually more windows are broken, and the damage, as well as the type of crime, escalates.
Although law enforcement finds this theory controversial, I love the comparison for the power I have over my tasks and space. Maintaining order places me in control and decreases the chance of feeling overwhelmed.
If a I leave a paper on my desk, quickly it can grow to a pile, then piles. If I leave a bowl in the sink, then eventually the whole sink is full…and I may also decide to neglect to unload the dishwasher. The clean up will now take a lot longer than simply washing one bowl. And, if I do not practice daily inbox zero during a few-day project, then my email becomes overwhelming, tasks are not added to my to do lists, responses are not timely, and I feel weighed down.
Here are other common broken windows we experience with our clients:
- Tossing files in a drawer without a label; soon there are many files all lacking indicators
- Stuffing binders, boxes, or supplies into drawers set up for hanging files; then when it is time to place a file in the drawer, there isn’t room to properly hang the file and disorganization continues
- Letting mail accumulate
- Allowing business cards to pile without entering the data
- Stacking “things to read” without setting boundaries or rules around the pile
- Neglecting pictures that need to be sorted or printed
You can also apply the theory project complexities. Fixing problems when first identified is to truly address them when they are small. Waiting to work on a problem will ultimately require more effort. Although taking care of everything all the time cannot be done, start by determining which tasks are non-negotiables in your day. Then, establish control over these task and identified problems that should be addressed before they snowball. This will save you time and will give you a happy nudge in your day. Although a few dirty dishes is not the end of the world, keeping even small stuff under control will make you feel better and ultimately will increase your productivity.
What are your broken windows? What will you take control of to maintain order, decrease stress, and allow you to be happier?