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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life Management 101--From Pillar to Post

For today, and one more Life Management 101 Tuesday, we are looking to Laura Stack's Find More Time:  How to Get Things Done at Home, Organize Your Life, and Feel Great About It for guidance.  This week, Chapter 7, "Mastering the Seventh Pillar--POST," is our focus.

In this chapter, Stack deals with Post in the military sense--one's assignment and set of responsibilities.  As with each chapter concerning one of the eight pillars of productivity, we start from a self-assessment related to that particular realm.  (See Stack's website for the entire productivity quiz.)   My score on Post--not one of my worst pillars--resulted from rating each of the following ten quiz items as:   1) to no extent; 2) to a little extent; 3) to some extent; 4) to a considerable extent; or 5) to a great extent.  My responses are in red.

To what extent do I . . . 
  1. Hire out tasks requiring a level of expertise I don't have. [2
  2. Hire out simple chores to helpers. [2
  3. Have goods delivered to avoid unnecessary time at the store. [2
  4. Complete shopping efficiently. [3
  5. Run errands efficiently. [3
  6. Function efficiently as the social, child, and family coordinator. [2]
  7. Do routine chores on a regular basis and keep my house clean. [2
  8. Conduct preventive maintenance on my home. [2
  9. Prepare meals quickly and systematically. [2
  10. Expect family members to do their fair share of the housework. [2]
In general, Stack's vantage point on the subject of time management seems strongly a function of an upper middle class life style.  Her recommendations often rely on a level of financial prosperousness that allows one to purchase services and products beyond the means of many potential readers.  She makes a good, if by now standard case for buying help, for those who can afford to do so.  But ever since I held a part-time job cleaning a professor's home, and chasing pubic hairs around his family's tub, I have had a bias in favor of everyone doing as much of their own s_ _ _ work as possible.  It keeps us humble, I think, and provides a counter to the increasing class divisions in our society.  It also assures that most of the fallout of overcomplicating our lives and overaccumulating possessions will land right where it belongs.

And as a feminist, I resist Stack's assumption of the household executive role.  For example, items 6, 7, 8,  9# on the list above.  Not that I have done much better than she at functionally escaping this gender-typing, and the unequal division of labor that still applies in most of our homes decades after women were "liberated" to participate in the nondomestic labor market. But perhaps one of the reasons that Stack is a productivity expert, and I am something of an unproductivity ace, is that I spend more time than she seems to being troubled about this.

Politics aside, however, I agree with and had already adopted several of her recommendations, including:  consolidating errands; online shopping; farming out work for which I don't have the necessary expertise (like filling our cavities, wiring light fixtures, and replacing mufflers); relaxing cleaning standards; having a meal plan; and training my children to participate in household work.  I need to step it up a bit in some of these areas.

I especially liked the simplicity of her distinction between routine and maintenance chores.  It helped me to see that putting off routine chores can turn them into maintenance level jobs.  Stack also pointed out that maintenance chores can be scheduled when I can get to them--generally, unless I've allowed them to become maintenance emergencies, like the furnace that had to be shut down in the middle of a very cold January a couple of years ago, and replaced, after a freezing night.  I hope this categorization will have the effect of urging me to do better at taking care of the daily stuff daily.  

I'm not sure that this week's reading can be said to have yielded me more time.  But following some of Stack's good advice, and reinstituting some of my own good past practices may increase my peace of mind.  I suppose that could save me some angst, and the time I devote to it.

Next week, Play--the final pillar.  

# To be fair, Stack gives her husband credit for preparing most family meals.

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