What good intentions are buried in that clutter?
Professional organizers like to say that clutter represents delayed decisions.* Sounds catchy, but in my experience it’s more complicated. Clutter also represents reminders (“must pay bill today”), postponed actions (“I don’t have time to file this now,” “I really should call the insurance company”), current actions (i.e., active projects).
And intentions. Some of my most stubborn clutter has to do with well-meant attempts to inspire change. I’ll read something, or hear a tip in a workshop or teleclass, that suggests a different way to act or respond. A technique for writing more efficiently. An aphorism. A confidence-builder. A new way of thinking about an old problem.
So I’ll put a sticky note on my desk, or a workshop handout near my computer monitor, to inspire me to use this new plan. Pretty soon my work space is covered with these notes, and they’re part of the landscape and I don’t notice the messages. Though on some level I think I’m still affected by the sense of undone-ness they represent.
Same with articles I’ve read that I want to absorb / assimilate. I put them back into the reading pile to read again, which means the stack never gets smaller. This is discouraging. And messy. When I read the article again, do I assimilate it better? Not sure about that. But I know it adds to the nagging feeling of things-undone.
Writing about this, I realize (finally! duh!) that it doesn’t work very well. There’s a system breakdown here.
What would be a better way to get myself to act on Good Ideas I Run Across? How better might I address this system breakdown, so I don’t feel so pressed-in-on by good intentions?
• I could visualize myself doing the new thing. Put a reminder in the calendar to visualize it daily. (Nah, too earnest.)
• I could put the papers in a file called “inspiration” or “things to try.” (Hasn’t worked so well in the past. I never look at the file again. Though at least it gets the papers off my work surface.)
• I could connect the idea to some kind of action that would reinforce it. (Sounds promising. Not all ideas translate to clear actions, though. Getting warmer.)
• I could talk to someone about the idea. Explain it. Examine it. Debate it. (Another promising “maybe.”)
• I could trust that my accumulated life experience and insight, and my ongoing commitment to study and growth, will lead—is leading—to gradual change and that the individual ideas in these papers have no magic power. I could let them go. (Haha! Is that all! Letting go: not so easy. But I like this possibility.)
• I could be friendly to myself about the need that I’m hoping to meet through this piece of paper. The dream of doing everything optimally. Of sidestepping difficulty once and for all.
• Some combination of the above.
• I could blog about it. (In the course of writing this post, I did file away a few papers that had been sitting around for months. Hm. That did not take long at all.)
*I think it was Barbara Hemphill who popularized this idea.