It's still January so, I'm sorry, but there's still time to do some new leaf stuff. And it's not giving up smoking or drinking or chocolate, or even paradigms, that this tip is going to be about, or resolving to go to the gym more often or eat more healthy food or ring your mother twice a week. No, it's a great deal more boring than any of those things. You've been warned.
There is a particular melange of feelings that this area of life tends to elicit in us, when we know we're not on top of it. Some of you may never have experienced it, always being on top of it, but the rest of us know it well. It is the sense of a large, diffuse, unmanageable mass hanging somewhere in the vicinity, far enough to ignore most of the time, but nevertheless too close for comfort. It is too big for us to handle, so we try to keep it at bay, mostly by ignoring it, moving swiftly on when it manages to make its way into our consciousness. There's a decent helping of guilt in there and often shame. We don't tend to think, consciously, that it is only us who has this embarrassing secret, but at some level we believe it.
I'm wracking my brains to think of a good umbrella term for the things in life that cause this state of affairs and the best word I can think of is 'Tediosities'. Judging by the red line that has appeared under this word, you will not find it in the OED, but it has a certain onomatopoeic ring to it I think you will agree.
The evidence on the ground for suboptimal management of your tediosities is various and many:
Every time you open a cupboard something falls out
There are several piles of paper on the floor of your study
There is a bad smell in the fridge
You have no idea how much is in your bank account
Your receipts are scattered throughout the house
You're hoping your mother will forget her glasses when she comes to stay
New clothes are still in their bags as there's no room in your wardrobe
You realise you need a much much bigger laundry basket
Your children had hula-hoop sandwiches for supper last night
There's a nagging ache coming from one of your molars
You find yourself going red and saying no to all the questions your vet asks, as in, has Hector been de-wormed recently?
A friend asks if that's a new decorating technique you've used on the walls?
The 'top up oil level' sign keeps flashing on your dashboard
And here they are, the tediosities of life:
Tidying and clearing out
Maintenance (house, car, self)
Food shopping and catering
Finances (checking statements, outgoings, keeping accounts)
Care of pets (vaccinations, grooming, dental care)
Administration (filing, bills, insurance, mortgage)
Grooming (hair, clothes, nails, skin)
If you're on top of all these parts of life you may have another list headed 'tediosities' which is quite different from this. If you're not, you will know that there is only one thing that can compete with the sheer gloom you experience at the prospect of tackling these jobs, and that is the sheer joy and self satisfaction of having done them. The likelihood is that you know these things form the bedrock of your day to day life, and that without some control over them things can take a nasty turn from time to time. You know also that there are things, just about anything in fact, that you'd rather do than sort them out. Most of the time you spend in an uncomfortable limbo between these two opposite poles, feeling anxious when you think about these things, and lousy about yourself. Meanwhile the jobs get bigger and bigger.
It's strange that we should do this, because it really is the worst of all worlds - you don't have the self-satisfaction and peace of mind of having them under your control, and you aren't enjoying the freedom of not doing them either. And in truth the thought of tackling our tediosities is a great deal worse than the reality of doing them.
So why not bite the bullet and tackle one of them? And who knows, if you tackle one you may feel motivated to do another...
1. Write a list of the areas of your life that currently could do with your attention. What is the evidence that all is not well in these areas?
2. Pick one to work with. You may choose it for the level of guilt or shame its current state of neglect causes you, the risks you are running in not doing it, or for the level of delight you know it will bring you once firmly under your control.
3. How do you feel about it right at this moment, and how does it make you feel about yourself? Would you confess this state of affairs to a friend or colleague?
4. What needs to be done and what is stopping you from taking action? More often than not the answer to this is nothing, other than yourself. Sometimes it may be that you don't know quite what to do, or how to do it, but a little research could easily put that right. Or it may be the old chestnut, time. But these things are already taking your time, as they regularly encroach on your life, and many of them will take your time whether you like it or not, sooner or later. If it's later they may take a lot more of your time than if you address them now.
5. Imagine what it would be like to have it all sorted. How would you feel? How would it be to have the light in the bathroom working again, the car newly valeted, your papers beautifully filed away?
6. Choose a time to tackle this job, and put it in your diary. It may be a morning's work, or it may just be a five minute phone call to someone who will do it for you.
7. Now put a frame around it. If we avoid a task we usually have a negative frame around it. It's boring, or taxing, or tiring. We already have a picture of ourselves hating it.
Think of another frame: It's going to be fun. I'm going to do my accounts this morning. I'll make myself a nice cup of coffee, put on some soothing music, smile to myself about how good I'm going to feel when it's done, and if that isn't enough of a reward, plan one.
8. The only thing left is to do it, and enjoy the results!
Have a satisfying week.