Most creative people who are not endowed with the “neatness gene” live a messy existence. Pick Up Tuesdays budgets one day a week to restore a degree of order to their environments.
To the frequent dismay of those whose motto is, “Everything has its place and everything is in its’ place,” many creative people had rather create than clean up after themselves. Their desks are often messy, their houses are cluttered and their workshops often have half-finished projects on the workbench.
Pick Up Tuesday designates one day a week where time is allocated to taking care of those 15-minute tasks that have often gone undone for perhaps a month or more. Tuesday is selected because Mondays often bring unexpected work from events that transpired over the weekend and Wednesday through Friday allows sufficient time to receive new tasks and hopefully complete them.
Setting Up Your Pick Up Tuesday
The reason that these things have gone undone is because something more interesting or important had to be accomplished first. When there is a million-dollar contract on the line, who cares if your tools from the last job have not been put away? The new task is just piled on top of the debris of the old and work continues. Right?
Now is the time to designate an hour in the morning to clearing away, filing or throwing out the wreckage that remains from the last pieces of various jobs that litter your environment. The significant thing is to schedule time every Tuesday dedicated to this task. Maybe you need to keep a running list on your bulletin board and cross off things as you do them.
After you have successfully worked for a full hour, give yourself a small reward. Return to your regular work and continue to mid-afternoon. Then, say from 3:30-4:30, you dedicate another hour to clearing out more junk and getting ready for the rest of the week’s work. On your first Pick Up Tuesday you have spent two productive hours that will pay off in that things will be easier to find on your desk, you will be better prepared for the remainder of the week and maybe even uncovered something of value in that pile of papers or material.
- Set aside two hours every week to clear out materials from previous jobs.
- Break your Pick Up periods into two segments.
- Don’t walk by something that needs to be put away without attending to it.
- Reward yourself after each segment.
Every job should have a start, completion period and end at which time anything related to that project is cleared out. True. Commonly the put-away period is only partially completed. Project left-overs can hang around for weeks or months after they no longer have any useful function. This is like trash that should have been thrown out, but somehow never was. These bits of accumulated “stuffs” need to be periodically and regularly rooted out of your environment.
Physical clutter reinforces mental clutter in that when a thing is seen it automatically provokes a mental response. These go like, “What is it? What did I use it for? Is it any good now? Why do I still have it? Do I have any more use for it?” When this mental brainwork is taking place your mind is distracted from what should have been your primary task at the moment. If you ignore all of this and plow ahead anyway, it would have been better if your mental stimulations were from something connected with what you were tasking your mind to do; rather than extraneous matters.
Fighting the Packrat Syndrome
The nagging feeling that you might need this someday needs to be counterbalanced with the reality that you can’t keep everything. For guys it is particularly satisfying when that screw that saved or that piece of scrap wood is repurposed to fix something or to make something useful. Yes, go ahead and throw it into your screw jar or put it in your parts bin, but get it off your workbench. I use my waste paper, boxes and other combustibles to start fires on my burn pile. For a person who works out of his own house, this is a possibility.
In an office setting, there is always the file cabinet for storing work-related documents that might be useful at some later date, like the notes from a conversation that later became a contract. Then when the document gets back from legal, you can check to make sure what was agreed upon is actually in the document.
Finding the Mental Groove
We humans respond to different environmental stimuli. Some receive their greatest creative stimulation with when surrounded by nearly ear-splitting volumes of music. Others, like me, want no, or few, outside distractions. There are also those who are more creative in particular places or when fondling a particular object or looking at something visual. A destructive crutch is alcohol and/or drugs which can lead one down the path that they can only be creative when half or completely stoned. While it is true that the use of stimulants can cause people to lose their inhibitions, it is also true that this pathway has led many down the path to absolute ruin and early death. The road to rock-and-roll fame might rightly be said to have been paved with the corpses of performers.
While some will maintain that a tidy workplace is the sigh of a tidy mind, as your First Grade Teacher told you, it is equally a sign of the workplace of a person who is likely not doing very much. A bit of disorder, and at times seeming chaos, may be a normal part of a persons’ creative modus operandi. That is fine and acceptable for a time, but cleaning up the leftover mess is necessary to ease the arrival of the next outburst of the creativity.
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