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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Five Little Big Life Tweaks

I'm all about the baby steps these days.  And pretty excited when I don't end up flat on my face as I move forward.  Here are some things I've done recently that have borne big fruit, along with a teensy change I am planning, and for which I have high hopes.

Cleaning out my purse, and keeping it clean.
I finally broke down and re-organized the things I carry with me everywhere about a week and a half ago, at the same time ridding my bag of clutches of old receipts, extraneous business cards, non-working pens and infrequently used cosmetic items, old gum wrappers and other such life detritus.  And guess what?  I am spending a lot less time hunting for my keys, my cell phone, my wallet, and even my purse.  Now that I have a specific place where these things belong, it's easy to put them back in my purse, or if they should stray, to check quickly whether they are in there or not.  And my newly efficient and reliable purse seems to arrive at its designated hook in the back hall (Burglars, please don't read this sentence!) as if by magic!  I should have done this weeks ago.

Designating a space for periodicals borrowed from the library.  Having recently misplaced two such items for long enough to incur substantial fines, I finally cottoned on (interesting idiom, don't you think?) to the idea that what works for the huge numbers of library books that I borrow would also be useful for magazines.  The few that I presently have checked out are living, for the week that they are mine, and whenever I am not reading them, in their very own magazine organizer beside my reading chair.  Already I have succeeded in returning three on time, and without mounting a house-wide search.  Who knew?

Keeping my cell phone charger in one designated place, and remembering to use it.  Keeping my (reliably charged) phone in its dedicated space in my purse when not in use or being charged.  What is it with these devices that are supposed to be making us more efficient communicators?  Does everyone spend as much time looking for theirs as I do?  And now that we're learning the etiquette that dictates silencing them in meetings, at church, at the movies, etc., calling them as a means of echolocation can't be counted on.  If you're like me and mine, the dratted things run out of charge while we're searching, so that even the subtle vibrating sounds of the muted phone can't help.  I have recently experienced two several-day phone dislocations.  The elusive thing was found, on one occasion, in the pocket of a cold-weather coat eight-sixed by a temporary warming period, and on the other in the deep side pouch of the bag I use to transport my meditation cushion to the weekly meetings of my sangha.  Of course, both times my missed call inventory and proliferating voice mail messages documented the inconvenience to others of my phone's MIA status.  So I have cleaned up my act, and even managed to get some calls I cared about.

Making the effort to exercise earlier in the day, when possible.  As evening falls earlier and earlier, even before the end of my work day, I am returning in the dark and the cold, with my spirits flagging.  An absent spouse and discouraged kids contribute to feelings of fatigue and "overwhelm-ment."  After coordinating dinner, feeding the dog, and cleaning up the kitchen, I have been having a hard time forcing myself back out the door to the gym.  In the last week, I have had more success with fitting my exercise in "up front," when my energy and motivation levels are higher.  The added benefit is that the lift I often get from a half hour of running, biking or swimming kicks in earlier in the day, carrying me through the mood swings that are plaguing me just now.

Moving my cloth bags to the front seat of my car.  I apparently have some issues with distractibility, and often (almost always) find myself in the self-checkout line at the grocery store sans bags.  You know, the few of my growing collection of those cloth creations, generally bearing advertising from the store I'm not shopping at, that would supplant the "paper or plastic" throwaways pressed on me by the exigency of needing to get all the stuff needed to stuff my teenaged men from the store to the car, and the car to the kitchen.  I have been known, when accompanied, to dispatch my shopping partner to the car to retrieve bags, and also, when not, to put my stash of purchases into my cart, one at a time, and then to transfer them individually.  Not the best use of my time.  Especially when a can of tomato sauce leaps onto the floor of the car while I am careening around a corner, and then hides for weeks in the car's interior regions.  This is particularly distressing when, as now, the car is most often sitting in the dark and the cold, making foraging there an uncomfortable and usually unproductive experience.  

So my "tweak of the week" is going to be relocating bags from the back seats and the trunks of our two cars to the front seats--or to the passenger side floor, when the passenger seat is occupied.  Because out of sight doesn't work when I'm out of my mind.  I will also make the effort to return the bags I will be using from the kitchen to the car after getting my eaters/helpers to unload them.  If this strategy isn't sufficient to ensure that the bags make it into the store with me, I plan to tape a small but unignorable sign to the center of my steering wheel, until my mindfulness in such transitions improves.

Altogether, these are some pretty low-level alterations, the kind you can read about in any basic book about personal organization.  But actually implementing them is making all the difference, in my overall stress level and in time "saved."  I intend to keep my eyes open for more such opportunities buried in my chaotic life arrangements.  

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