This Week in Intentional Living (3/4)

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Old friends, family members and anyone who’s ever seen my office, having read that sentence, are laughing hysterically.

Traditional organization has never, to put it mildly, been a strong suit of mine.

For many long years I was – honestly – tormented by a desire to become one of those people whose desks exhibit no unfiled papers, no uncapped pens, no books out of place.  I read books, I attended seminars.  I made a hundred really great starts at being one of those people.

And a hundred times I failed.

That, you see, is just not who I am.  And that’s OK.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

Here’s something true I’ve learned:  Your desk is not a reflection of your mind.  Yes, I know, that’s not what the organization industry wants you to believe.  If you are the sort of person who is naturally inclined to keeping a perfect desk, if filing systems come easy to you and the process feeds you, please carry on.

But if you’re spending your (infinitely valuable) time reading books about better filing systems or paying people to make you feel bad about the papers on top of your desk, please allow me to give you permission to go on about your business.

Unless you are one of those folks who organize other people for a living, I suggest that you have more important things to do with your time than worry about your desk looking ready to appear in a TV drama.

Now, I’m not telling you to let paper pile up until it blocks your exit. We don’t want the fire marshal involved.  You know you need a base level of filing and organization, but you only need the level that allows you to meet the challenges of your work, whatever that work may be.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

The one place where you must be organized is in your mind. Start there.

Your values and the priorities informed by them need to be clear to you.  If you’re spending your time worrying about how disorganized your filing system might be, you’re spending mental and emotional capital – and time – on things that, in the great scheme of things, don’t matter.

I want you to spend the limited time you’ve been given on things that do matter.  On things that move your life forward.

Organize your mind first.  Take ten minutes a day to actually consider what matters to you.   A great life isn’t about efficiency, it’s about finding a way to be … great.  It’s about giving yourself a chance to simply be, and from that state of being be better.  Over and over again.

If we settle for the efficiency of a clean desk (again, I’m speaking for the unwashed masses of us whose proverbial desks are not clean) and consider that some sort of achievement, I submit that our goals are dangerously low.  And I believe our goals are dangerously low.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

What place does work occupy in your mind?  Is work outside its place?  Has work been “mis-filed” into your “family” file drawer?

I don’t know about you, but I’m often guilty of this mental mis-filing.  It’s the classic mistake of modern western society – the “work” priority gets scattered across all our other priorities until we can’t figure out where it honestly fits into our values system.

We open the subconscious “health” folder, and there, staring back at us, is a page that says, “Stay at your cubicle and finish the TPS report.”  Sometimes we stay and finish the TPS report, sometimes we leave and go to the gym.  Either way, we’re treated to a little cognitive dissonance, and maybe a side of guilt.

Sometimes it works the other way, and “health” or “family” or some other file ends up where work should be.  That’s no less a mistake.

The key is to organize your mind.  Set aside regular time for keeping your priorities – and your actions – in line with your values.  Make it a regular appointment, if you need to, for as long as you need to, until it becomes second nature for you.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

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