When Containers Go Rogue

Log Jam

Log Jam (Photo credit: heathzib)

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the number of things on your to-do list, that you became immobilized? This has happened to me more times than I care to admit.It’s like a log jam. Everything nicely contained with no where to go. Everything comes to a standstill; frustration sets in.

Three days ago, it happened again. I had a massive to-do list and a block of time. It could have been an easy thing to do: by any method, just choose a couple of things to start on and get moving. Even without a lot of prioritizing, the potential was there. Except for one thing. The folders and materials I needed were not organized. Some things were in my bag. A couple piles of papers were near my desk. Other files were on my sewing table. A few things were on the kitchen table. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t get the stuff to work on one project without upsetting the balance of something else I was working on.

Now I’m not crazy enough to think that logs (or files) set out to block the movement of logs (or projects); but it is easy sometimes to forget that reality sometimes. These container malfunctions, if you will, are often the results of mismanaging of some sort. In my case, I can trace this problem to two main causes.

1. It’s part of my personality to be (almost) compulsive about “doing” something all of the time. Not that I don’t enjoy a lot of it. I do, but that’s the stuff of other blog posts. For the moment, just let me say that I get wrapped up in way too many things. I know this, but I haven’t figured out how to stop myself . . . yet.

2. I still struggle with that containerizing versus organizing thing. So while things are contained (and organized in a limited way), the volume of projects and related “stuff” that goes with them sometimes overflows, and it feels like nothing can move. I look around me at my list and the piles of materials that go with the lists, and I want to throw up my hands and run away.

Luckily, I found a solution–using the log jam image, as I have in the past. If I can dismantle even one little part of the log jam (pile jam), things will start to move along better. In Saturday’s case, the kitchen table became the detangling station. I started by taking all the things from the bag that goes back and forth to school with me. I set each set of papers on the table, one pile for each of my projects. After I finished that, I took a pile from next to my desk and sorted those papers in the same way. Before long, I had several stacks of papers on the kitchen table. It offered a temporary solution, I was able to once again start making progress on a number of projects without losing the whole day to disorganization and despair.

The interesting thing about this ongoing problem is that I almost always figure out a way to meet my deadlines and get things done. The bad news is that there is a cyclical element to this process. I organize, plan, and begin to implement, and then I start to let the system slip. Then I have to work through the log-jam again. I need to figure out a  way to keep all of my projects organized so I can move easily between them. Of course, I also need to reduce the number of projects I try to juggle. And while I can’t accomplish everything at once, I think a three-dimensional matrix model might help me think about how to tackle both of these problems eventually. All three elements–time, projects/ideas, and resources–must come together.

As I pursue the matrix idea, I’ll report back. In the meantime, I’m going to knock off a few items from that to-do list.

5 comments on “When Containers Go Rogue

  1. Simpliflying seems to be what my life has been about since I retired. I get the dilemma…. oveerreaching what I’m able to comfortably do. When I was working, that was the trip all the time… busy, busy, busy, tired, and never feeling done. In the last years of work, it was really overwhelming, as I didn’t have the energy any more. So in the months since I retired, I have had to keep assessing whether or not I had scheduled too much, which led to sorting through all my activities and relationships and letting go what I really didn’t enjoy all that much. Oddly enough, putting each quilting project in a bin didn’t happen until late this year (so your comments on that were timely), but I find that that helps me to put it aside until I’m ready to do it. I feel less burdened. I can still think about it, what colors, what design, how to do parts of it, but I don’t feel that I’m ready to begin until I have a unpressured time in which to do it. It’s a lot slower a process than when I was younger and could juggle more, but it’s commensurate with the energy I have now and the desire to be more peaceful inside myself.

    One thing that has also helped is that I realize that, after I’m gone, what I’ve made will drift away like leaves on a breeze. Oh, there will likely be quilts family and friends want and that’s lovely, but the real point of what I quilt is that I enjoy it. The recommendation that 6s let go of perfection is helping me approach things differently, and together I am approaching what I do in a more carefree manner and also realizing that, if there is something I don’t complete, the world won’t miss it. It’s just a fun way to spend a life.

    • Thanks, Sylvia. I hear what you’re saying about simplification. You will probably be interested in the next few posts coming up, as I plan to talk about managing (and scrutinizing) those to-do’s, as well as a variety of ways to think about time. I have something to share about my own decisions about how to handle quilting in an upcoming post.

      Sorry about the delay in response. I do appreciate your comments, and I’m glad that some of my ideas are helpful to you.

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