Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Organizing Line: When It's Time to Get to Work

(Today was a long day at work, so I don't want to spend a bunch of time writing tonight. Instead, here's a blog I wrote last year and never published that coincidentally concerns time management.)

Actually getting work done is one of the most difficult things to do. Putting pen to paper, writing that first line, taking the first step; there are so many obstacles in our way, and today I'd like to talk about one of them.

My desk, the one I'm sitting at as I write this blog, is a mess. It's covered in papers, writing utensils, books, gadgets, and all sorts of things like that. It's thoroughly unorganized, and it doesn't bother me one bit. It's not in my way, I haven't lost anything in the pile, and it doesn't stink or anything; it's mostly a pile of sticky notes and other papers. For some people I know, though, this would not be acceptable, and they couldn't get any work done until it was cleared.

A while back I composed a tweet saying, "For some, organization is a prerequisite for productivity. For others, it's the death of productivity." I think it came off as more binary than I intended, though. What I meant to convey was that there is a scale that determines when, for a person, good enough is good enough and they can start working on something other than cleaning, organizing, and other distractions. In other words, there's a point for everyone at which a mess is no longer a distraction.

For some people, they can't relax until every surface is clean and everything is in its place: the TV is at just the right angle, the temperature is just right, and all the books and DVDs are arranged in alphabetical order. Most people don't require everything to be perfect, but they do have certain prerequisites that have to be met; they can handle a bit of a mess so long as it's not too cold in the house, or perhaps they can focus through hunger just fine but can't get anything done if their desk isn't organized.

For others, though, the building could be burning down around them and still they could be focused on their task at hand. Nothing can distract them, even as they neglect their friends, their family, their home, and even their hygiene.

Is there a right way to be? I don't know. I'm inclined to say I aim somewhere in the middle, trying to balance my health, hygiene, work, and relationships, but I'm often reminded how little time we have to accomplish things. If I spend all of my time working, how will I connect with people and share my ideas, spend time with my loved ones, and influence the lives of others? If I spend all of my time with other people, how will I spend time working on creative endeavors, creating something I can be proud of, and developing the skills to make it happen?

This economy of time enters into every minute we're alive, and in some ways I envy those with the focus to sacrifice their relationships, health, and hygiene in pursuit of their dreams. But that's not me.

I do guard my time jealously, though. I have a specific idea for how I want to spend my time, and though I can't claim to always spend it wisely, I'm content with the amount of time I spend on my own maintenance. I never want to wait until everything is perfect to do the things I want to do, because I'm afraid that if I organized to the extent my mind sometimes begs me to organize, I'm afraid I'll never actually do any of the things I really want to do.

So, though I understand it's a small point, I'm afraid my desk is just going to have to stay a mess.

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