My desk is out of control. This happens every few months or so, when I’ve been juggling a variety of projects at the same time, and I have a pile for this, here, and a pile for that, there. After a while, the piles start crowding out any space in the middle, and I feel like I have nowhere to work or room to think.
Then I start moving piles to corners of my office. Problem is, the piles get dispersed, but I don’t make a decision about filing or tossing and the clutter remains unresolved. It just seems to follow the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply.
This proliferating clutter seems to mirror what’s going on in my life. I’m trying to do too much. I know this. I know I need to make some decisions about priorities and focus. I’m working on it. The trick is to keep this from becoming yet one more project that piles up.
I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask—the modern-day badge of honor, especially for women who juggle family and career. It’s an important skill-set, sometimes crucial for getting through the day. But there is growing evidence that multitasking isn’t necessarily such a virtue. In fact, multitasking can actually reduce productivity by up to 40 percent.
It can also be fatal—as in texting while driving.
The older I get, the more I want to declutter—my desk, my to-do list, my home, my mind. I want to eliminate the stuff that isn’t necessary and concentrate on what’s really important. I want to be able to focus on one thing at a time and give it my full attention, then move on to the next. Quality over quantity.
Essential for any well-lived life, but all the more so when you are managing a chronic disease, spend too many hours in doctor’s appointments each month and want to make the most of the time you have, especially those days when you’re feeling strong and alert and have energy in reserve.
Where to begin?
It seems that whenever I clear my desk, I begin to clear my head. I’ve also found that making a series of small adjustments over a longer period of time—rather than undertaking a major, exhausting purge—adds up to a significant, nuanced change of habit.
So my goal is to pick one pile, one drawer, one small corner to declutter each day—a small project that takes only about 10 minutes. Over the course of a week or a month, I hope to clear my space and clarify my priorities.
The Jewish High Holidays come early this year, the first week of September. The weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, are a time for reflection and introspection—how to do better, be better, mend what needs tending and start afresh.
There’s a lot more to it than clearing your desk. But that’s as good a place to start as any.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.