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Debris and Detritus

Posted by Priscilla on October 15, 2013

messy2.jpgThe greatest interference to creativity is a messy brain, followed closely by a messy workspace. I used to not think so. I used to have a mind that could organize thoughts on the fly, find anything under any pile and see, in my mind’s eye, exactly where on the page the one trenchant sentence lay. No longer.

Sure, the piling up of years makes it harder to sift through the junk to find the treasure, but it’s more than that. My very brain has become messy. What are some signs of a messy brain?

  • Starting a task, leaving it, going onto another, leaving that, going on to a third. Not finishing.
  • Multi-tasking. Not leaving one task before starting another. This leads to thoughts jumping around. What color should my business cards be? What do I want to say in my blog on order? Oh, I’d better take the chicken out of the freezer.  Do I need business cards, anyway? You get the idea. 
  • Being able to visualize the lost banker’s box with the oh-so-important document in three distinct places. “I’m sure I stored it …where? There! Oh, maybe not.”
  • Inability to do any work because of too much work.
  • Forgetfulness

Messy brains lead invariably to messy workspaces. The converse is not always true, but I am convinced of this contention.  Papers spilling out of the bookcase, pile upon pile of documents on every chair and desk. Excess piles on the floor. If you a) spend a good bit of time each week hunting for a paper or b) step gingerly over a pile here and a laptop there on your way to the only free chair in your workroom, you probably have more than a messy workspace. You have a messy brain.

Messy brains and messy workspaces take work. The time spent navigating is not spent creating. Because work is accomplished in fits and starts, words cannot flow, images cannot spring fully formed into the mind, and unusual connections cannot be made.

Unfortunately, Messy Brain Syndrome and Messy Workplace Cancer are hard to cure. Trials and troubles give them new life. They also self-reproduce. If my messy brain causes me to get distracted and forget something important, my forgetfulness may grow into fear, which is then added into an already overloaded brain, making it messier than ever.

I read an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that promises to solve my problem—if I can just follow the advice of the efficiency expert from Toyota:

  • Never do tasks in batches. Always flow—one task started, one task completed, then onto the next.
  • Clear the desk of everything except what you need to accomplish the task. Mark the exact spot for the stapler, the coffee cup, the #2 pencils, and so on.  You should never have to hunt again for anything. That includes stamps in the drawer, or maps in the file.
  • Organize thoughts and ideas with post-it notes on the wall. Says the gentleman from Toyota:  “Order focuses the mind.”

There are other suggestions, having to do with personal needs and goal setting, but these three alone would re-spark creativity.  Who knows how fast I could write if I didn’t have to wade through debris and the detritus of past days and past projects.

What do you think?



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