As I work on implementing David Allen's excellent Getting Things Done system in my life, I'm also working on paring down the sheer number of things I do, and getting my priorities really straight.
Some tasks are inevitable. My mother, who will turn 90 in a little over a week, has had two hospital stays in the past three months, one for a broken hip, one for a blood clot. This generated a great deal of work for me, including taking her to follow-up doctor's visits, and dealing with the prescriptions and much of the administrative detail. Family emergencies have to be dealt with, no matter what else is going on with one's schedule..
On the other hand, many things I do constitute wasted time and scheduling noise. Even many of the things which can be justified in the grand scheme of things (political activism, for instance) translate into a great many scheduling collisions, and often unrealistic todo lists.
So I'm faced with a series of questions:
What are my high level priorities?
What's the relative importance of recreational down time to my "saving the world" activities?
How many discrete tasks is it prudent to put on the schedule for any given day?
I have the luxury of time to think about those things at the moment. I've retired from my "day job", and my new business is in that formative stage where I can stop and resume when other things arise (in other words it isn't bringing any money in yet, so interrupting it costs me little money). Even taking my mother to the doctor's appointments results in time in the waiting room to think and write.
I have figured out one thing already, though. Part of my ability to "get things done" is going to require not only paring down physical objects in my life, but arranging my life so that I have fewer external committments. Note that I didn't say "no external committments". I'm a very socially engaged person, and I value my family and friends. It's also not possible for me to drop all community and political activity. I'm a born activist. I just have to be a lot more selective, and learn to say "no" to overcommittment. In fact, the most compelling reason to pare down things is so that the things I do commit to are done well.
So in focusing on a few important aspects of my life, I hope to have more time for friends and family, not less, and for my business life to go better, not worse, and for all the community interests I have to result in more effective work, not less.
Clutter is not just a word that applies to physical objects scattered around the house. It also means poorly considered, disjointed, badly executed things festooning my todo list.