I made some progress on my desk. I filed and shredded and recycled more paper than any human being should have in a single domicile. I got to where I could find my keyboard on my desk and do some work at the computer (though most of my business work is done on my laptop [not shown]).
I went to bed and woke up the next morning and felt like crap. I could barely stay awake and the thought of cleaning and clearing and filing and sorting sounded like hell on earth. So I went back to bed, slept another three and a half hours, and woke with a new attitude. (It doesn’t just work for toddlers, folks.)
Every time I stepped out onto my office/sunporch, I saw everything that had to be done, every thing that needed a new home, all the things I didn’t know what to do with. And it overwhelmed me. I felt paralyzed. And I did nothing.
But, I can hear your argue, can’t you do just one thing? One thing each day and over time, it’ll make a difference. And you’d be right. Except there was something stopping me, and this morning, I finally saw it. (Adequate sleep does wonders.)
I’d attached value to all the various things that needed to be done. Picking up a dozen paper clips that had spilled onto the floor? Easy and not worthwhile. Going through years of documents and photos, business paperwork and condolence cards, to figure out what to keep and what to file and what to recycle? Now that was hard, and therefore (I thought) worthwhile. Because I would have accomplished something.
Some of you may recognize yourselves in this. Others may think I’ve done a swan dive off the deep end. But here’s the thing: I grew up with this idea that hard work and accomplishments that one has to struggle for are worthy. Easy, piddly things were for slackers and losers. My dad lived this his entire life, never feeling like he was quite good enough, despite a bunch of professional degrees and fancy doctorates and three lucrative careers, and having played a part in saving–easily–dozens, maybe hundreds of lives.
It was never enough because he was all about the accomplishment, and further, the hard accomplishments, pulling himself up by the proverbial bootstraps, starting with crippling debt and a 1.2 high school GPA and becoming someone. There was always more to do, more money to earn, more people to impress, more letters to add after his name, and so what he had was never enough.
He never understood that it wasn’t about the money or the fancy cars or the social status or the degrees. It was always about him acknowledging his own innate worth. His life is a lesson for me of what not to do.
Once I saw this at work on my office clearing, I immediately thought about “low-hanging fruit.” If you’re not familiar with the term, it means to pick the fruit that hangs on low branches before you struggle to get to the top branches. The fruit is just as delicious and nutritious (worms and birds and squirrels notwithstanding), and it gets you started.
So I began with the obvious, easy things. The paper clips. A box of business supplies that can be moved to the business warehouse. A refrigerator filter that could actually go near the refrigerator. Two small boxes that were mostly empty. Puzzles that could go into the game cabinet.
And what do you know? A lovely clear space began to emerge. Those few, easy things made for visual progress and motivated me further. My energy increased and my happiness followed. Now, as I look around my office, I see promise and potential, not overwhelm and stagnation.
Here’s my desk/printer area from before:
And here’s after I started with the low-hanging fruit: