Being Habitually Disorganized is Very Good for Procrastination

Being Habitually Disorganized is Very Good for Procrastination


Projects. We all have them. At work, the value of projects completed is quantified, your salary against how much you get done.  At home, we don't have to complete projects in a timely way because... no one is paying us to do it.

So projects languish at home. This is the seed of clutter. Then, clutter begets clutter. The son of clutter is ugly, but behold the disfigurement of later generations.

It's not news that we procrastinate dealing with the mess around us. Humans can be very good at putting on blinders to our own mess. We program ourselves not to see it. It happens so gradually, after all. The slowest avalanche ever imagined. Our desks, dining tables, coffee table and kitchen counters disappear under all the un-dealt with projects, paper piles and dust and we will go right on living. As happy as clams we are, shut into our tiny world encased between the rock hard shells of our laptop and smartphone.

Sometimes, subtle shifts in thinking are all that's needed to get going on managing parts of our lives that are unwieldy or that blinders have prevented us from seeing. 

If you are disorganized at work, or if you work from home, you are likely habitually this way and you don't mind this moniker. It's part of your self image and self dialog.  Yeah, I'm disorganized but I'm a VP! Yeah, I'm a mess, but I'm a developer making ridiculous amounts of money! Since we can all think of at least one person who is a total mess but incredibly smart, efficient, wealthy, successful, etc., we can easily dismiss our own messes.

But maybe we can turn this idea on it's head and see all that mess as a sign of being a procrastinator. Someone who is not efficient. Someone who avoids.

That's a little unpleasant, isn't it?

To think of ourselves with the stain of a procrastinator - now that's in the realm of the socially unacceptable, the lazy. The mark of someone not living up to their potential. The sign of a person who wouldn't be good to live with or to hire for a job. Perhaps when you suggest throwing a party, people cringe at the idea of spending 3 hours at your place. Worse yet, you don't throw parties or work meetings at your place because you cringe at anyone seeing how you live. A little sting of embarrassment when we admit that about ourselves.

In essence, the habitually disorganized among us may be trying to hide a problem they don't know how to deal with - procrastination. Since having a big mess around obscures the root problem and gives us the guise of "messy but productive" we are safe for a time. Until, of course, we need to find something under all that mess. Or it's gotten so bad that you don't know where to begin to whittle it down and you have to beg a family member to help or hire an organizer. 

Here's what I do when overwhelmed with an increasing amount of piles to deal with at home or at work:

Every morning, do the ugly stuff first. What you want to leave for the end of the day is typically what you should tackle right away. I'm currently practicing what I preach here, because I noticed I was not writing as fluidly late afternoon after I did everything else I could to avoid sitting down to write. Now, I am writing first and whoa, nelly! Much better. More writing happens when I start my day immediately attending to it. I give full credit to this.

Dedicate a whole day to the tiny, niggling things. All that less important stuff you don't really want to do has to be done sometime. Make a master list of the small, annoying tasks when you look for the missing ball head for your tripod, the printing of photos for 12 frames you bought last year, sort through the mail and shred the bills you paid months ago, send money to that charity whose fundraising mail you keep hoarding as a physical reminder to donate, send on what you need to mail, return to Amazon, return to Marshall's, bring all your old coats to the Salvation Army or call to have them pick it up, shred the boxes and boxes of private papers that have built up and have enabled generations of silverfish to flourish.

Sweep off your porch. Once you've attended to all that you've procrastinated, you will probably have dealt with most of the clutter on your desk or in your living space. All without the framework of thought that comes with the messy/ neat divide and whatever those labels might mean to you.

Now, close your eyes and imagine yourself as a character in a Faulkner novel getting ready for the day by sweeping off the porch. A daily ritual of sweeping off that porch so spiders don't settle and it looks presentable for sitting if guests come by.

It's nothing you really think about, just something you do.

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