Last week, I was in Oslo, Norway, while my luggage was visiting Amsterdam. Upon returning to Tucson, Arizona, my luggage was overnighting a few days in Paris. Timing being what it is, I needed to prepare an important PowerPoint as soon as I returned to the states. I sat down ready to work, and all of a sudden, the “incompleteness” of the luggage fiasco interfered with my ability to focus. I had luggage tags, receipts, phone numbers, foreign addresses and boarding passes strewn everywhere, all vying for my attention. Even though I had a plan and need to focus on something important, the minutia of life competed for my attention.
Then I noticed that while I was away, even though I had read all my emails, I didn’t actually handle stuff, and my usual style is to handle everything only once. Respond, trash, file or trace. But now I faced down a bunch of “used” emails trumping the luggage fiasco cry for attention.
It seems these insidious incomplete robber barons exist to tire us out, weaken our resolve and zap our energy. The same thing happens to me if I look at unread magazines and silently note, “I need to read them one day.” I think the “incompletes” are picked up by our subconscious. Even if we are not aware of them, there is something about unfinished business that robs us of our energy.
So how do we stay inspired and ready to focus on the high-leverage things in life? Consider structures that call forth excellence — perhaps the best way to keep things on track and your mind on what it needs to focus on. Sometimes, it might be a good idea to check with your teams on their “overwhelm scale.” If they have too many “to-dos” without structure and priorities, you and they could really be losing productivity, not to mention balance and joy.
Anyway, instead of feeling anxious about all the miasmic papers I had to deal with, I decided to structure one hour of “clean up” in my calendar starting with the most annoying tasks. In short, I arrested myself, handcuffed myself to a plan, did time by creating structure and after an hour freed myself on good behavior. Within an hour, I was feeling free, dancing a jig, inspired to write and free and clear to deal with whatever came my way.
For me, being incomplete is robbing myself of present-moment joy. Structures for priorities and excellence work. It’s worth the time to notice them, soothe the subconscious and be a powerful creator. In short, the robber and the policeman are the same person — us. Take time, take charge, create structures for excellence and take back creativity and productivity.
It’s like a “get out of jail for free” card!