Clearing the Space: The Benefits of De-Cluttering

I begin my coaching conversations with a 60-second, mindfulness exercise called de-cluttering. I do this with the aim of clearing the emotional and mental space. As a result, it prepares the mind to receive and engage fully in conversations. My friends and colleagues in Axialent called it Check-In and I wrote a post about this, last year. The pioneer of NeuroLeadership and the Director of the NeuroLeadership InstituteDr. David Rock called it clearing the space.

The process for de-cluttering in my coaching conversations looks like this. I request my client to engage in a short, mindfulness exercise to help clear the space and improve focus. This involves the following, 3 steps:

  1. Express succinctly, what 3 things are in the background for you?
  2. What is the emotion you’re feeling?
  3. Can you commit to clear the space and put that away for our session today?

Benefits of De-Cluttering

This short and simple exercise has incredible power to bring clarity and intent to our actions in the following ways:

Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash
  1. An opportunity to Speak Your Truth
  2. Reminder to Give and Receive
  3. Reduces Distraction and Mood Spills
  4. Prepares You for Conversations in a Mindful (NOT robotic) Way
  5. Builds Trust and Intimacy

An Opportunity to Speak Your Truth

In coaching conversations, the blessing of de-cluttering is an opportunity to speak your truth. It is to mindfully enter the space of vulnerability and step into courage. It is about being able to share what’s on your mind, without fear of judgment. So much of our mental and emotional energy is drained by worrying: of other people’s opinions, standards, and benchmarks. As I shared before in a guest post on Mark Schaefer’s Grow BlogHard is Hard. It is not relative. It’s one’s own struggle. This exercise gives you permission to enter that space with intent and compassion.

A Reminder to Give and Receive

This 60-second exercise at the start of a coaching conversation does 2 things. It serves as a reminder on:

  • how you can serve
  • how you can receive

This is true for both coach and client. Because the choice of giving and receiving is a continuous process throughout the conversation. The reward of serving is not limited to the coach alone. The client is also working in service of his/her vision, goals, and strategies. Likewise, the joy of receiving isn’t for the client alone. Because of the coaching process and dialogue, coaches could also discover insights, ideas, and awareness about their own coaching styles.

The real power of engagement lies in giving and receiving. And, any opportunity that serves to remind that is a welcome gift!

Reduces Distractions and Mood Spills

In a Question and Answer with Steelcase, Dr. David Rock says we face an epidemic of overwhelm today. Whether it’s information density or the temptation to unlock our devices several times in an hour, or a previous meeting that left us a with a certain mood, distraction is here to stay. What we can choose to change is how we address these distractions. 

I find that simply stating that “I commit to putting this away for the rest of our session today and will truly engage in the present moment” goes a long way in increasing focus and de-cluttering. It’s hard to be comfortable in a room full of things that are scattered all over the place. Why would it be any different with the mind? How can you possibly function with clarity and razor-sharp focus if your thoughts are all over the place?

Prepares You for Conversations in a Mindful (NOT robotic) Way 

De-cluttering prepares you for mindful conversations. You may be in back-to-back-to-back meetings. Calendars are double, triple, or quadruple booked. People value your insight, wisdom, and opinions. So, how are you entering the space in each of those meetings?

Taking a minute to clear the space allows you to be present and mindful of everything you give and receive in your conversations. Otherwise, conversations turn into transactions, not engagements. Transactions align to structure. Engagements speak to your heart.

Builds Trust and Intimacy

In one of several global meetings, one of my favorite leaders once said: “It’s 5.55 a.m. and it’s cold and wet. I need my coffee before I can say anything coherent. So let me take a minute to reorient myself to where we are today.” In that single gesture, she made it ‘ok’ to remove the facade of pretense, if there was any. The complexity of multiple time zones now became a shared struggle. In other words, it created relatability, which can accelerate trust.

During a difficult conversation, another former leader often said: “You may not like what you hear but you will always know where you stand”. He cleared the space in a way that discouraged people from telling themselves stories in the absence of data.

De-cluttering allows you to share the context in a conversation. Sometimes, the context is joyous. Other times, it is not. Your willingness to share that context (to the level YOU are comfortable) and your commitment to place that aside for the duration of your conversation is a driver of trust and intimacy.

The Practice of De-Cluttering

As you start a new year with a powerful vision and compelling dreams, how will you practice de-cluttering – both in the physical space around you and in the mental space, within you? If you’re a mindfulness expert or a student of life, just like me, I would love to hear from you.

Anitha Aswath is a Senior Leadership Coach, Team Consultant, and Global Facilitator. She has a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and is trained by The Marcus Buckingham Company in StandOut and Strengths Coaching for Business Leaders. She has a deep understanding of human relationships and leadership behaviors. An avid photographer, blogger, aviation enthusiast, Anitha is also a student of Indian Classical Music of the Hindustani style. 

In an illustrious career spanning 19+ years, she has served organizations like General Electric, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Target, and Cisco in regional and global capacities. She works with clients from all over the world to serve, teach, and enable the success of leaders and their teams.


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