Spring is a great time to reassess, reorganize, and refresh. This year, instead of tackling your closets, I suggest you think about a thorough spring airing and cleaning of your life. Too often, busy lives lead us to patterns where we are simply following the bread crumb trail of our to-do lists and not taking the time to step back, gain some perspective, and revamp or refocus. Here are four steps to doing a different kind of spring cleaning—without getting overwhelmed.

Step One: Clearing out bad habits

Cleaning out a closet or a drawer feels rewarding, but what about looking at the habits and routines that are cluttering up your life and not getting you where you want to go? Take inventory of how you are really spending your time—that’s the true indicator of your priorities. What are the time and energy wasters in your life? Put them on the list. Include them all. Don’t worry yet about what to do about them, just take inventory. Creating your plan of attack is the next step. If you don’t immediate way to fix the situation, I suggest you brainstorm. Could you delegate? Redesign the task? Eliminate it all-together? If not, how could you add more joy or make it more pleasant (never underestimate the power of good music while doing anything unappealing). Look carefully for time wasters—activities that use your time and energy and don’t pay you back in any way. Are you spending too much time online, keeping up with email or doing mindless activities? Have you gotten out of the habit of going outside and into the habit of too much TV? Make a list of the habits you want to eliminate AND the new habits you plan to replace them with.

Step Two: What’s not really working for you (energy drains)?

Spring is a great time to look at your day-to-day life and routine with a fresh eye. We are great at “accommodating” and “making do,” and, especially if we are busy, it’s easy for these tolerations to add up. Tolerations are those things we put up with and try to ignore. The things we “tolerate” even though they aren’t really working for us. Tolerations can be a major energy drain because they aren’t optimal to begin with and we can spend our valuable energy trying to make something that doesn’t really work do the job for us.

Spend ten minutes making a list of everything in your life you are currently tolerating—everything. Then keep the list somewhere handy where you can continue to add to it as things come up. They will. Include everything—that desk chair that hurts your back, the way your computer freezes up, the colleague who is often late, the sweater that itches, and the weight loss plan that failed you before you even started—you get the idea. Don’t worry, this is not a to-do list. Instead, it’s a way of focusing your attention. Tolerations are things we’ve decided “not to think about.” By giving them your attention and acknowledging that they are problems you will automatically start the process of change. This isn’t just “woo-woo.” Watch what happens when you start to take note of the things you are putting up with that really don’t work for you.

Step Three: Beliefs that don’t serve

Some of the most bothersome life clutter is the stuff we carry around without even realizing it. This includes beliefs and attitudes about ourselves that don’t serve us, and that may even sabotage us or keep us stuck. Spend some time listening to your internal soundtrack (the way you talk to yourself inside your head). What is the tone of these conversations and what are the beliefs underlying your internal chatter? Try to capture that chatter in several key situations.

What does your internal sound track sound like when you have accomplished a goal? Are you your biggest fan? Are you all about the praise and celebration or do you automatically downplay it and focus on what you didn’t do? Does your internal audio register accomplishments or has it already moved on to the next item on your list?

How do you talk to yourself when you are taking on a challenge? Are you the “little engine that could” (“I think I can, I think I can”) or are you likely to remind yourself of all your shortcomings and the reasons that you are likely to fail? How's the tone? Is your internal audio reasonable and respectful, a harsh task master, or too rigid or too wishy washy?
When the going gets tough or you get off track, what’s the conversation you have with yourself? Are you one to talk yourself back on the horse or do you beat yourself up and call yourself names like lazy, disorganized or something worse?

This conversation we constantly have with ourselves matters and most of us are rarely aware of it. It can take place almost as automatically as breathing. Here’s the litmus test: would you talk to your friend or your child the way you talk to yourself? If not, it’s time to do a major clean out. Raising awareness is the first step and the next step is crafting an alternate soundtrack. What are the words and labels and conversations that would really truly nurture your most brilliant and effective performance?

Step Four: Sprucing up

What in your life could use a fresh coat of paint or a complete overhaul? What "spruce up" would make your life fit better?

Are you wearing clothes that make you feel good? Do the places where you spend your time create the mood you want them too? Do you take the time to cut flowers from your yard, light a candle for yourself, or sit down to a well-set table? Is that pile of papers on your desk driving you nuts?

What about relationships? Are you getting the support and friendship that you need or is this an area of your life you’d like to renovate? How’s your physical health? Do you have a healthy lifestyle plan and is it one that puts a smile on your face or is it feeling boring and tired? How could you spice things up or rejuvenate your passion? Could you use a mentor, a partner, or a new approach? What sounds like FUN?

Now’s the time to think about the new stuff you might want to bring into your life. Don’t let this be stressful. Start by noticing what you want and make a list of all the “spruce ups” and additions that you’d like to make. Save this list. And remember--it’s fine to tackle these tips one step at a time.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Melissa McCreery is a Psychologist, Coach, and Emotional Eating and Overwhelm Eliminator for smart busy women. Are you struggling with emotional eating, overeating, and balancing work and life? Claim your easy-to-use audio series: "Five Simple Steps to Move Beyond Overwhelm with Food and Life" at http://TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.