Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Clean up as you go is a strategy I learned many years ago from my extremely neat & tidy next-door neighbor. Initially it pertained to yard work, but since then, I've applied it to many types of tasks and projects. My problem is that although I tend to begin projects with much exuberance and expectation, at some arbitrary point while mid-task, a switch is flipped and all motivation, desire, interest and energy to continue or complete whatever is it that I'm doing simply disappears. I know when it's happened because the only thing I hear in my head is:

D O N E.

I don't necessarily get a warning of this impending shift. I don't know why or when it will happen and I don't know who or what is doing it.  I only know that when the switch goes from 'ON' to 'OFF', I can't do the thing for one more minute. That's it. Just. Done. The end. 

The problem with this, aside from a persistent sense that I'm playing some sort of warped game of Russian roulette with my own free will and energy, is that it leaves messes and unfinished jobs which often require additional time and work later on not only to clean up the messes but to figure out where I was in the process. And sometimes, mess begets more mess. Sometimes, stuff gets ruined or lost. In practical terms, it looks like this: I go outside feeling motivated and decide to trim the hedges. I'm very focused, committed, motivated and I cut LOTS of bushes and branches. I put them in piles, with good and pure intentions of picking up the piles and putting them in yard bags when I'm done trimming.  (You see where this is going, right?) After the switch has been flipped, it’s entirely possible for the piles, bags and possibly even the clippers, rake and garden gloves to end up exactly where I left them for days, weeks or longer. Either I never regain enough motivation to complete the task or I don't even remember - out of sight, out of mind. Evidence of this uncompleted project might not come into my sight of vision or mind until the following spring, after the snow has melted. (Yeah, neighbors love this.)

Now, when I trim hedges or do any job that involves making a mess as part of the task, I clean up as I go. (most of the time) If someone were observing me it could appear that I'm not being very efficient with my time, or that perhaps I have a touch of OCD. However, the relatively small amount of extra time this takes pays BIG dividends when your brain wiring short circuits and you are - d-o-n-e. It's also helpful if you are interrupted mid-task for reasons outside of your own self, such as the needs of small children or pets, unexpected weather, or drop-in company.

If you’ve never used this strategy before and decide to give it a try, let me know if it helps!