I would describe myself as a bit of a messy person. Let me explain. I don’t naturally ‘do’ orderly. Organisation and admin are definitely not amongst my strengths.
My bedroom shelves are full of books and paper, including my Law books from the Law degree I dropped out of at university ten years ago. That’s right. TEN years ago. My bedside cabinet has a couple of piles of books I’ve started / dipped into at night. I can be a bit of a hoarder, though I’m trying to get better at this.
Another way of looking at it is that I like to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. And often, organisation/putting things away isn’t so much something I fancy doing. And then I end up doing it once in a blue moon. I just don’t have the motivation to do it.
I don’t have to do anything. And especially whilst I haven’t been working, I especially don’t have to do anything. If I’m not careful, a slow day of relaxing/procrastinating/thinking can wind up with me being indoors, not doing much, and gradually getting more low and moody as the day progresses (especially as mornings can often feel cumbersome for me).
On the other hand, I can find structure incredibly stifling. One of the challenges I had in my last employer’s open-plan office was having a manager I was accountable to, and certain targets I needed to meet. Being the funky maverick I was, most of the time I’d manager to hit the one big target which mattered (i.e. revenue generated), even if I didn’t hit all of those individual targets beneath (e.g. that teeeedious logging on the computer system).
I like to do things my way, in my own time. I really value this individuality and freedom. For me, this is the challenge that comes with working for anyone, or in a team; working in a sales environment was particularly tedious and, at times, nigh on overwhelming. Plus, office politics and all that bullsh*t really isn’t for me.
Besides, there are times when I don’t have a particular plan (e.g. my old job), but still manage to perform and get things done, even if not in the most productive or efficient manner. Trouble is, you are just relying on whatever mood you happen to be in, feel bad after a day/week when you haven’t ‘done enough’, and never know when to stop when you’re in the zone and making stuff happen.
One of the ways in which setting quantifiable tasks (e.g. a to-do list) can help, is that, at the end of the day, there is a tangible sense of accomplishment – and, once you’re done, you’re done. (An added challenge for me, here, is that I always get too carried away and expect too much of myself – or if I’m not feeling in the mood I get nothing done – so I can feel sh*tty either way).
For me, the best way seems to be a balance between having a couple of things to do, but without so many that I feel overwhelmed, and also with some flexibility. For example, starting on something though not necessarily having to complete it.
I came across Leo Babauta’s ‘3 Most Important Things’ and quite liked it. Basically it forces you to choose just 3 things and therefore prioritise, thus giving you a structure. Currently, most days I try to have a task list which allows for flexibility. There are some key things on there which I endeavour to do daily – e.g. writing, exercise and some form of meditation/being still. Aside from that, my main priorities are around my job search (which will introduce further routine plus learning and money), and my creative writing.
Often, I can get overwhelmed and doubt myself and my ability, plus worrying about not having all of the answers about what I ‘should’ be doing with my life, and whether ‘it’ will pan out successfully for me in the future. Setting those small tasks helps me avoid freezing up and just spending a whole day thinking/worrying/doubting myself. The key is just getting cracking on one of the daily tasks, and as early in the day as possible.
I’m a messy guy. I like to be messy and creative. I like to feel free. But having a flexible structure enables me to keep on track, and actually take consistent action that gives me the knowledge that I’m moving forwards. Oh, and it also ensures that I’m actually using my creativity and creating; for me, this means putting pen to paper and getting words down – whether it’s my journalling, poetry or story-writing.
PS. Btw, I’m typing this up from a hotel by the Albert Dock in lovely Liverpool. My mum booked a family mini-break away to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the World Museum – we went earlier and it was *so* interesting! The Terracotta Army collection dates from around the 3rd century BC!
✏ Written: Thursday, 1st March 2018 @ 2.18pm
What about you? 🤷🏽♂️
Are you a goal-/task-setter, or a little more ‘messy’ like I *naturally* am? How do you best function? I’d love to get your perspective on this 💙