Order Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q4

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Short week with a lot to do;
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving.

Whenever I think of Order, do you know where my thoughts immediately stray? The endless list of growing, and useless, “to-do’s.” Unfortunately I skip over the first clause of Ben’s sentence: “Let all your things have their place” and instead try to accomplish everything. Regimental drudgery takes over and I become miserable. It’s not what Order is about – not at all.

Over the past year, I’ve realized that whenever I get caught in the Order trap – the trap of lists, schedules and plans – I usually end up miserable. I’m miserable because: One, I don’t care about most of the stuff in my inbox or on my schedule; Two, once I pretend to care about it and add it to a list, I immediately care about it greatly, even though I don’t care about it at all; Three, when I greatly care about that which I don’t care about, I’m never more fraught to explode; Four, overloaded, I explode; Five, I feel guilty I exploded and spiral in misery. The Order trap, it’s one of the fastest ways to accomplish nothing.

Practical tips. 1) Don’t waste effort on items that needn’t get done in the first place. Practice whittling away until core items remain. Ten items on your list? Focus on two. 2) Everything takes approximately 10 steps, 1 item is not 1 item. Mailing a postcard entails buying a postcard, writing a postcard, finding a stamp, remembering an address, writing the address and walking to the mailbox. I spent all day yesterday mailing a postcard. 3)  Get it done. If it is important and needs to be accomplished, the longer it hangs out there, the worse you’ll feel. Nothing feels better than clearing a list of important items.

And it’s true, nothing feels better than tackling what needed to be tackled. A weight is lifted, angels sing, and the rest of the day proceeds with ease. That is the key to Order. Order is not about tackling everything. Order is not about running yourself ragged. Order is about creating attainable goals. Order is about calmly navigating the day. Order is being free to let all things have their place in your life. It took a while to learn, but when I’m not chasing frivolous tasks, the world is calmer, and I’m far less likely to lose my mind when my 2-year-old wants to play. After all, playing with my 2-year-old should be at the very top of my list, but I’ll never add it to a list. The most important things in life are never on a list.


Next Week 

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q4

Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Personal notes:

  • Determine key tasks this week;
  • Ignore unnecessary items;
  • Act with purpose.

The turkey hangover has scrambled my brain. All I want to do is go back to doing nothing while eating more gravy. With Christmas lists and holiday cheer on the horizon, it’s going to take a lot of Resolve to get anything done this week.

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving

Order Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 3, Q3

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes for the week:

  • Busy week ahead, plot it out;
  • Do not over plan, keep it manageable;
  • Each task is usually composed of several steps, list them out;
  • Provide cushion; fill it if needed, enjoy it if not.

Procrastination is how I get things done; every week I write a relaxed schedule and every week I finish writing this blog at 5am. Some weeks flow smoothly but most have their interruptions. Like on Wednesday, when I lost my wallet rushing my daughter to the dentist; interruption accomplished, Order eviscerated.

If there’s a benefit to procrastination, it’s complete laser focus at the finish line. But the drawback is that any interruption is a spark to gasoline; anger burns with the slightest agitation. How we handle ourselves during this moment is hardest because we are at our weakest: tired, stressed and anxious. It took a lot of energy to keep from yelling at my daughter as we looked for my lost wallet – a lot of energy.

Truthfully, I enjoy Order; plotting vacations, streamlining expenses, cooking foods; cooking is one I enjoy most. The prepping of food, the mapping of time, helps create hours of quiet. The mind put at rest and the body at ease, the moment wrapped in the comfort of Order. With each thing in its place, Orderliness stirs contentment – if only I could do this all the time.

Order breeds quiet; slowing down the world and letting appreciation sneak in. How often do people complain their train is on time? With the day over-packed and over-scheduled I lost a wallet and almost lost it on my daughter. Thankfully, a kind stranger left the wallet untouched with a gracious subway attendant and saved me hours of worry and misery. In this crazy time sometimes Order still finds its way, and wallets are returned, and people remind you that there is good in the world.


Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 4, Q2

Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Personal notes:

  • Determine key tasks this week;
  • Focus on these tasks;
  • Dutifully and purposefully complete each.

I’m traveling this week, and when I travel it’s always a bit difficult to get work done. Getting it done will be especially hard with good food and great friends; it’s going to take a lot of resolve.

Good luck this week,


Order Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Three, Q2

Order: “let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes to start the week:

  • stick to a prearranged schedule
  • focus on tasks at hand/block out noise
  • allow flexibility to enjoy family; plan “cheat time” for one off events

Last Monday I did nothing: no deadlines, no to-do’s, no emails. My only task, focus on my girls. After all, it was a beautiful, spring day. We went to the park (twice) and walked everywhere. By the pond we fed the ducks and at the playground we laughed on the swings. For hours they tumbled down green hills until exhausted, they collapsed in my arms. For dinner we had their favorite, mac and cheese. Mom came home early and was met with screams of joy, followed by an impromptu dance party. All of us slept soundly that night. All of us had a great Monday; the rest of the week was a breeze. “Let all things have their place.”


Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Three, Q1

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes to start the week:

  • Stick firmly to a prearranged schedule.
  • “Seize the day.” wake before/by 6am (goal 5am).
  • Focus on tasks at hand/block out noise.
  • Navigate pain points by preparing for them.
  • Ensure time is scheduled for critical pursuits +exercise +personal development +new skills
  • Allow flexibility to enjoy family; plan “cheat time” for one off events.

This week was a failure. All my attempts at Order were botched. One thing after another brought disorder: inclement weather, daughters sick, winter blues, winter break, mother-in-law, helping a friend. Worse still, I couldn’t stay focused. Aiming for “Order,” I bulls-eyed “Distraction.”

When I derailed, I tried to get back on track but it was no use; bad habits reappeared. Despite spending the last several months weening myself away from the internet, I easily drifted towards email, Facebook and the iPhone. Mindless distractions and sore thumbs followed.

There were some wins but not enough to offset the feeling of failure. To get rid of clutter I organized the office and the bedroom. Spent some time tackling the retirement plan. Cleaned up the garden. But nothing you would call a home-run. Maybe that was the problem. I should have been swinging for singles.

A few observations:

  • In the beginning of the week I “Ordered” my schedule into 1 and 2 hour segments. It did not work. 2 to 5 hour blocks were superior.
  • 1 hour segments resulted in being busy but not productive. If I organized bigger chunks of time, I was productive and not busy.
  • Small time blocks worked for email – if you stick with it! I did not and found my day destroyed by email. When email was limited to 15 or 30 minutes at 9am, 12pm and the close of the day, I was effective. When email controlled me, I went down the rabbit hole of distractions.
  • Having a check list for the day was helpful but my goals were unrealistic. Need to lower the success hurdle.
  • There were periods when the kids needed more from me than planned. I organized around that time so we could hang together. If I tried to do something during those needy periods everyone ended up angry.
  • Ah, and about that goal, “wake up super early this week.” Up by 6am? Yes (begrudgingly). Up by 5am? Not even close. Kids are exhausting and I’m not a morning person. I also haven’t been drinking coffee.

Looking back, I had a great week. Seriously. Despite sickness and interruptions, everyone was happy. My family was all smiles. The gratitude journal provided a solid base for the day.* The angst stemmed from “Order.”

It’s odd that by aiming for Order, I achieved the opposite result. That was frustrating. If I could distill it to 2 failures it would be 1) email and 2) lofty goals. By setting impossibly high goals each day, I paved the path for failure. My outlook was clouded as more and more items did not get addressed. Failure became self fulfilling – swing for singles and aim for consistent wins. As for email, it was a gateway drug that opened up a million avenues of distraction. Remember 9am, 12pm and end of day.


*This was a challenge listed in the Bens13 weekly email.