It’s Monday and I am doing my level best to avoid the real, rather mundane work that lie ahead today. As a self-employed consultant, I tend to be pretty disciplined when there’s a concrete project with a concrete deadline (at least, I hope my clients will attest to that!). But there’s much time in-between which has lots of administrative, marketing and ‘Other’ category tasks attached to it. It’s time in which, quite frankly, I would rather be doing something else.
I’m the type of person often classified as ‘highly-sensitive,’ and as part of this I tend to work best unsupervised, under more fluid time constraints than the traditional 9-5’er. I often work the same number of hours, but it’s a different combination of tasks over a different arrangement of hours (often running into evenings and weekends). I’m fully capable of winding it out when my clients require it, but then I need time to dial it down and be more easygoing once those projects are complete.
So on those other times, like today, my work time bleeds into activities that do not even fit into the ‘Other’ category. But they don’t really qualify as ‘goofing off’ either. I’m avoiding the activities that contribute to running my business not by staying in bed until noon (however tempting a notion as that is after we pack the 1- and 7-year-old off to school), but by cleaning, dusting and generally getting in-order some area of my home that is looking a bit neglected.
Parts of me feel a bit let down by this. If I briefly rest on the feminist analysis, I chastise myself: what kind of ‘break’ is it to be toiling at the more traditionally female, and downright mundane, tasks in the home? How does cleansing the gutters in my windowsills help to cleanse my spirit and feed my job productivity? (Not to mention that it doesn’t involve much brainpower, nor does it serve to generate income.)
A cluttered desk can be a sign of genius – but also of a cluttered mind
But then I correct my thinking by remembering that it’s hard to move forward and keep your mind organized around your projects when you’re surrounded by chaos and disorder.
People who’ve chosen not to work at home – or who don’t let their employees telecommute – often say that home-based workers are too tempted to finish their laundry and dishes, and thus do not get their paid work done. That can happen. But in my case, I don’t see it an equal trade between ‘real’ business and cleaning my house. After all, this is where I work, and no cleaner comes in after I’ve left my desk for the day.
It may seem flaky to some, but I do subscribe to the Feng Shui-like notion that you get the type of energy you invite in. So today, I’m cleaning and tidying the area around my front entrance. In my book, if the place where people walk in looks like a train went through it, then people will feel that (including the people who live and work there). I’d rather invite in the most positive vibe I can. So I go around that area thinking about not just how it looks, but also about how someone might feel when they come into our home (slash-my office): Does it look like we’re happy to be here, and take the time to keep things in good order and repair? Or do we look like we barely have the time to even notice? We’re far from wealthy, and most of our furniture’s, er, inherited. But I think it’s important to project a sense of pride in your dwelling just by how you take care of things.
And after applying some physical labour to make my surroundings flow better, it’s often easier to go back to doing similarly with my mind. And this is quite often to the benefit of my business, as very often I discover new solutions to problems and ways to manage the project effectively – often in the midst of all that ‘mindless’ work. So, I log it in my calendar as ‘planning time’ – or better yet – as an ‘executive retreat’.
Let’s face it: you don’t as often appreciate the results of all that diligent financial data-entry you did, as often as you’re going to be pleased to enter your home without feeling a cobweb drag across your forehead. And in warm weather, this extends outward to the extensive gardens that border my front and backyards, where the beauty and other sensory gifts that nature offers open up the spirit to let in previously-untapped insights. It all has a way of giving the mind a clearer platform from which to take off into productive thinking.
Writing teachers often remind us that clear writing is an extension of clear thought. So if I’m in the business of helping people get clear on their messages, I need to be thinking clearly myself. And before I can do that, I just gotta take the time to get my house in order.