The Challenge: Clutter vs. Time Off

If you’ve been following the line of thought through the last several posts, you may have been struck by the irony of writing about the need to take time off, indeed to schedule time for being a vegetable, followed by posts about the imperative of dealing with clutter. Obviously, there is only so much time and energy, do you schedule time to vegetate, or do you deal with the unfinished tasks, the “drains”?

The answer goes back to Stephen Covey’s teaching of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. While I benefited from his teaching many years ago, at that time I certainly did not realize the full wisdom he was imparting. Not that these ideas were new; his contribution was to organize these ideas in a manageable fashion. His first habit is: Be proactive, not reactive. Yeah, we all know that, but it’s a concept worth re-visiting.

We are proactive, perhaps most of the time, but because of the multitude of distractions and activities, it is so easy to get stuck in a pattern, and dealing with all urgent matters, and leaving out some very important things. And what is important to you can change with time. It’s a good idea to re-assess your situation in order to be proactive in a fresh way, a way that reflects the way you are today.

Being proactive means both scheduling time to do nothing and setting aside time to work on clutter. I’m using “clutter” in a very wide sense, all the stuff that needs to be done, even if it doesn’t look like physical clutter in the home. The normal tendency is to ignore clutter, until it takes on crisis proportions and becomes an urgent task, which then tends to take over your life. You may be familiar with the Crash and Burn process. The more intelligent approach is to schedule a manageable time to work on it, without expecting to actually finish everything, but to reduce the scope of the clutter by dealing with it for half an hour every day, or two hours every Saturday, or something like that.

Same goes for time off. That means no TV, no radio, no I-pod, no cell phone, nada for a while. Time to allow your mind to create, without necessarily telling you what it’s up to.

Be proactive, once again. Work on your clutter, then relax and do nothing. It’s part of creative life in 2008.

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