Friday, April 19, 2013

Order of Precedence

No matter who you are, your work load probably looks a lot like my workload, which looks a bunch like anyone else's workload. We all have obligations and demands on our time. If you participate in society, you still have to do taxes and wash your clothes. Same as everyone else. If you don't do the first one, the laundry you'll end up doing will be orange prison jumpsuits. And this is all assuming you aren't working with chemicals that will melt your sneakers - as I was in the photo below.

If you work for a living, or at something you love, like say writing, you're eventually going to face tight deadlines. Life happens. Unexpected events wreak havoc with even the most ironclad of intentions. Having a routine in place works in your favor. Well exercised self-discipline helps, too.

But if there's one law of the universe, it's this: The more unflappable you believe your system to be, the more crap the universe will throw at you to prove you're wrong.

When that happens, you need a plan to rely on when you're hyperventilating into a paper bag because your book is due tomorrow, the taxes were due yesterday, the kids are screaming, and your sartorial options are 'do laundry' and 'go naked'.

Allow me to introduce you to a short term triage system I use called: 'Order of Precedence.' This is designed to be used when you still have all your regular chores to do, but life has handed you an insanely short deadline, three crises on the day job, and phone call from the school nurse saying your kid just broke a bone. Maybe three. If you go to the ER now, you might beat the ambulance.

Order of Precedence goes like this:

1. Living things first - do the minimum amount of work required to keep life in the living things in your home. At my house, this step is broken down even further: People first, critters second, plants third. Yes. The plants totally count. (What? They clean the air and provide O2.)

2. Order of law - do that which will keep you out of jail. Taxes, licensing vehicles, providing enough clothing that no one gets sent up on indecent exposure charges. To me - that means laundry. To some people I know - it means a quick trip to a store for packages of new undies and socks. Presto. Legal and clean. Ish. Again, you're looking for minimum effort to achieve your end.

3. Recruit help - all is fair in love and war here. You're in crisis. Doesn't matter why. If you live alone, yet the dog MUST go to the vet while you're killing yourself to get that novel about the gunslinging cowboy vampire to your editor by midnight - phone a friend. Swear you'll return the favor somehow AFTER you've met deadline. Understand this might find you helping that friend move. Pick friends who don't have collections of antique refrigerators. The serious aspect of this is consider hiring someone in to clean the house once a week. Or once every other week. It's not forever. It's until the storm has passed. Grocery delivery fits here, too.

4. Forget everything else. So the floor crunches when you walk on it. You'll remedy that. After deadline. Your kids are heard muttering that they're sick of McDonalds? Does your family think you've forgotten the way to the kitchen? So what. You'll fix that after deadline.

The point of this system is to make it through any kind of crunch mode. Even kids understand crunch time, since just about everyone leaves a report to the night before it's due at some point. The system is useful as a last ditch coping mechanism, but that whole minimum effort thing, while freeing up lots of time for meeting deadlines isn't designed for long term use. Minimum effort begins to translate to the other people in your life as: we're not important enough for more than your minimum effort.

And that, my friend is a message you don't want to send. Unless you really, really mean it.

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