Blogger: Wendy Lawton
All of our agents have slipped out of the office to spend the holidays with their families. We’ve picked from previous posts “The Best of” for your reading pleasure and pondering. Our office opens on January 5, 2015, and we’ll have new posts waiting for you then. In the meantime, Merry Christmas!
A friend just sent me a Susan Branch calendar. On the front is a quote I can’t stop thinking about: “I’m trying to arrange my life so I don’t even have to be present.”
Bingo! That’s what I keep aiming for. I’m looking for the auto-pilot method of work. If my systems are good enough— if I keep everything humming, if everything is filed, answered, acted upon, gathered, sorted, classified, organized and logged— won’t the magic happen whether I’m here or not?
Hmmmm. Probably not.
David Allen, the guru of productivity, says in his book, Getting Things Done, “It’s possible for a person to have an overwhelming number of things to do and still function productively with a clear head and a positive sense of relaxed control.” He talks about elevated levels of effectiveness and efficiency. Did you catch all those terms: function productively, clear head, relaxed control, effectiveness and efficiency? Can you see my hand waving madly in the air? I want what he’s having!
Want the truth? Organization makes my life so much better, but the process is like herding cats. I just get the herd moving in one direction when two or three meander off. Just when I feel like my systems are humming along, I find a hole in my management of information or I find I’m memory-challenged in yet another area and need to develop a new tracking system.
I want to celebrate the coming year by extracting any sense of guilt from our discussion of organization. [guilt off] Developing and implementing your system of organization is an ongoing process. It takes time for a new skill to become a habit. Trial-and-error are part of the process. Have fun with it. Be creative. Look at it as challenge.
Rather than end on a positive note (that’s too easy), let’s talk about what not to do:
- Don’t make yourself crazy trying to attain perfection. Do the best you can and savor the incremental improvements. Celebrate progress.
- Don’t allow perfectionism to keep you from developing an interim solution. Maybe you can’t redesign your whole office at this time, but you can reorganize your file drawers.
- Don’t be afraid to call in help. Professional organizers might be an excellent investment for a drowning writer. It’s a bottom-line decision. If a professional could find you extra hours to do your more lucrative job, it doesn’t make sense to do it yourself. If not a professional, maybe you have a friend who is a master of organization.
- And as you get more organized and find extra hours in your day, don’t fill them all up with more work. We live in a culture that keeps trying to accomplish more with fewer people. We’re working harder and longer and saying yes to more projects than ever. Uber-productivity can become an idol in itself. Time and energy are finite. No matter how organized we become, we’ll still hit the wall when we’ve filled every nanosecond of our lives with work. We need to work smart and effectively, but unless we have time to live and dream, we’ll all shrivel. (And shriveled writers do not write good books.)
The nice thing about herding cats is that if we take the time to follow the occasional meanderer, we could just happen onto a great new discovery.
© Vlastas | Dreamstime.com – Black Cats Photo
If I were to write a book called “Getting Things Done”, it would be fairly short. In fact, I would make it like a kid’s book, with one word on each page.
I’ve seen wonderful systems for organization that simply exist to perpetuate themselves – they provide a clean and uncluttered feel in which nothing whatsoever is accomplished. And I’ve walked into tradesmen’s shops in places like Peshawar in which you can have a working copy of nearly any weapon you want fabricated within hours, seemingly from a pile of scrap metal, by a rather rumpled worthy squatting in front of an arrangement of ancient tools, bereft of their benches.
This is a model for my shop, when I can still get to it. The tools are on the floor, the door is open, dogs wander in and out, and an occasional cow pokes her head in to say hello. I squat Asian-style to work (being Asian, it’s a no-brainer for me), and yes, I have a material jumble of pieces of steel too short to use…
…until that golden moment when each one finds welded bliss.
It’s fun to do, fun to describe, and a sheer delight every time Barbara comes to the shop. One day she’s gonna roll her eyes back so far they’ll get stuck.
And am I ever gonna get a PICTURE!
That is so funny, Andrew! The eyes, the picture, the squat … the cow!!
I’m wondering if your knees go “pop, pop, pop” standing up from the squat? 🙂 Mine do. 🙂
Funny that you mention the knees!
I seem to have wrecked one yesterday, and will need to splint it. It’s about the size of a football, and makes a rather alarming clicking noise if I try to make it bear weight…before it folds sideways.
It’s a strange feeling indeed to be welding under the supervision of a cow, but God chooses his QC supervisors, not I.
You paint the picture of your world so vividly.
I think that love strengthens the palette, and sharpens the chiaroscuro.
My desk is the messiest it’s ever been. But I still have a good foot on all sides of my computer clear. It’s not really that bad, but it makes this semi-perfectionist cringe. I have a stack of ads that come in the mail … with coupons … and I want to toss the whole stack … but I might need them before Christmas. Right!! But if I did …. 🙂
But honestly, I feel so relieved right now. With my husband’s vacation coming up, I really needed to finish an article … and I did that yesterday. Whew! I was starting to feel the pressure because I got my next speaking engagement scheduled for January, about two weeks before vacation!! Yahoo! Can’t wait to meet those sweet ladies! 🙂
I hope nothing bad accompanies this you tube video … but it’s a momma cat chasing her kittens up and down the slide. When I read today’s post, I thought about it … made the girls and me laugh!!
Wendy L. Macdonald
Shelli, my daughter and I love the momma cat video too. So sweet and perfect for today’s post. ❀
I’m glad you posted this today, Wendy.
“Uber-productivity can become an idol in itself . . . We’ll still hit the wall when we’ve filled every nanosecond of our lives with work.”
Sometimes I’m concerned about my compulsion to fit as much productivity as possible into any given day. Even as I speak, I’m on a mini-vacation with my family, and I felt a little guilty yesterday as I packed two projects to work on in the car or in the event of some free time…I never want my family to think my work is top priority.
Anyway, good reminders. 🙂 Wendy, I don’t know if you will check comments today, but I hope the Books & Such staff (and blog readers!) have a beautiful Christmas week.
Merry Christmas to you, Jennifer!
Merry Christmas Jenni, and thank you!
Wendy L. Macdonald
Wendy, thank you for reminding us that the creative life is not a life of perfection. Parenthood has helped me let go of my old ways.
I used to need a spotless kitchen before I could create a meal. Now I focus on the cooking first and then clean while the aroma of dinner and the chatter of the radio (or family) blesses me.
Merry Christmas to the Books & Such family. ❀
Wendy, I bought those ornament materials today … felt and sequins!!
Wendy L. Macdonald
Yay you! Shelli, you’ve inspired me. My daughter and I have decided to make a couple of trees this evening. I just checked my craft supply stash and it’s overflowing with sequins. Have fun. ❀
No, you inspired me! I haven’t made these since I was a child … a child! I got black felt and multi-colored sequins for mine! Oldest daughter–green with silver; youngest–red with gold. We got blue for dad … he can pick from all our sequins!! 🙂 Now … if I can cut out half-way decent patterns. I can do it!!! 🙂
don and rascal
I tried herding cats and I learned . . . it’s as hard as eating peas with a pitchfork.
And I really like them both.
Herding cats…that is indeed what life feels like sometimes, isn’t it?
Merry Christmas, Wendy and Books & Such family! 🙂