Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life Management 101--Finally "Womaning Up" to the Whole Mission Statement Thing

I am currently making my way through Laura Stack's Find More Time:  How to Get Things Done at Home, Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It.  Having plowed through the introduction last week, this week I read Chapter 1--"Mastering the First Pillar--PLANS."
And, although I have a master's degree in planning (urban and regional planning, actually, with a concentration in social planning--which has to do with social policy, not parties), I do not exactly excel when it comes to organizing my own life.

In this chapter, I didn't really encounter any earth-shaking ideas, anything I hadn't read before in my ongoing struggle to pull myself together.  But, as a friend noted in a recent conversation, it seems there are some things we just have to keep learning.  Every so often, I have to be exposed, once again, to the idea of lists--daily and master to-do lists; project task breakdowns; shopping lists; reading lists; communications lists.  And I need reminding that it might help to have some overall idea of what I am trying to achieve--dreams, goals (Stack calls these "dreams with a deadline."), and yes, a mission statement.  I'm not sure why I resist this good advice.  I imagine it has something to do with my split personality.  Though I am capable of logical, rational thought, a strong part of me clings to a "bohemian" identity.  It is this part who wants to recreate herself fresh each morning, and scorns predetermined activities.  But her results have not been everything even she would wish.  And so we do this dance, my selves and I, which brings us back repeatedly to the literature of organization.

Stack has organized her book with chapters that correspond to each of the eight "Pillars of Personal Productivity."  Each chapter is structured by the section of the Productivity Quiz which deals with that particular "pillar."  The relevant assessment items were to be rated 1) to no extent; 2) to a little extent; 3) to some extent; 4) to a considerable extent; or 5) to a great extent.  They included:
To what extent do I . . . 
  • Have a personal mission statement for my life.  [2]
  • Maintain a list of my life's goals and dreams and make plans for their accomplishment.  [3]
  • Try to gain flexibility at work.  [3]
  • Keep effective to-do lists so things don't slip through the cracks.  [3]
  • Break larger projects into smaller ones.  [3]
  • Prepare for the next day the night before.  [2]
  • Plan for chaotic transition periods during the day.  [3]
  • Prevent crisis by preparing well in advance.  [2]
  • Embrace flexibility and weather change.  [2]
  • Continuously work to improve my efficiency and effectiveness.  [3]
I have included my response to each item, in red.  "Plans" was not one of my weakest pillars.  In fact, it was my second strongest.  Which explains why my composite score, which featured  one slightly weaker and five significantly weaker areas, indicated a need for "major repairs."

It would seem that these "major repairs" are going to involve a fair amount of "homework." (Oh, joy!)  Early on in chapter 1, I was instructed to put down the book and go through the steps of identifying important values; writing a paragraph for each of the three most important of these, defining it and specifying how I would know that I had lived up to it; and then combining these into a draft mission statement.  Thus, having earlier sidestepped Marshall Cook's mission statement admonition, I was forced to bite the bullet and come up with a reasonable facsimile.

This is what I wrote:
            Doing what I can to make sure each member of my family feels loved and has the necessary support to make a happy life for themselves is important to me.  I want to do what I can to grow in my roles as mother and partner.  I want my family to be a haven for each other, now and in the future.
            As a neighbor and citizen of the world, I believe that I have a responsibility to work for justice for everyone, to lessen inequity, and to improve the life-chances of those whose circumstances are especially difficult. 
            I want to develop and use the gifts I have to create meaningful and beautiful things that will bring enjoyment, solace and inspiration to myself and others.  
I can't say that I am particularly thrilled with this "Mission Statement."  Maybe the reason I have avoided writing such a thing is the same reason I don't get a tattoo.  I can't make the commitment.  I can't imagine a mission statement, or a tattoo that I would want to live with for the foreseeable future.  Of course, a mission statement is presumably more removeable, and the process of shedding one less painful.  But there is something belittling about seeing in print the limited business of one's life.

Anyway, now I have my very own one of these things everyone seems to be so enamored of.  It remains to be seen how this will contribute to my greater productivity.  First, I have to let it heal--and to avoid picking at it.

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