Friday, June 10, 2011

organized chaos

So... in thinking about this idea of "chaos" (in previous post), I suddenly remembered what a classroom-full of young children is like when they are all engaged and engrossed in an activity.

Organized chaos.

As contradictory as that may sound, that is what it's like! Sure, the room may look messy, but they are playing... and for a young child, play is their work and their work is play. I remember how our play kitchen area or pretend grocery area looks when children are actively involved in purposeful, self-directed, and collaborative play. It's amazing - and as chaotic as it may seem to an outsider, there is a sense of organization to it. You have children taking on roles and behaving accordingly. You have children taking turns, children using language appropriately to communicate. Sure, conflicts arise here and there, but such is the reality of life.

Organized chaos. So.... what lessons can we learn from this scenario to manage the chaos in our lives?

A dear friend of mine told me about the concept of "big rocks". Visualize a jar. The "big rocks" are your biggest priorities right now. Place your big rocks in the jar first. Then, smaller rocks go into the remaining spaces in the jar. That way, you can organize your time to deal with your big rocks - your big priorities first, and then the smaller priorities later. (Thanks, Kim!)

I know that sometimes I tend to procrastinate and do other, less high-priority things first, because I don't want to face my fears -- the big, "scary" priority. But then in the end, it becomes a disservice to me, because despite how "productive" I thought I felt doing less high-priority things, the big priority goes into emergency mode.

Another lesson I really loved (and which I have yet to fully master) is Stephen Covey's time management matrix in his book "First Things First". Those "things" are divided into four categories:

  • Urgent and Important
  • Not Urgent and  Important
  • Urgent and Not Important
  • Not Urgent and Not Important

This is best represented in a quadrant; as shown here. According to Covey, our time should be spent mostly on the Not Urgent and Important category. For example, if we spent enough time planning and preparing for a project, then it doesn't go into emergency mode, or the "Urgent and Important". Granted, some projects tend to go into this category especially during crunch time... but I would agree that we would limit emergency mode if we spent enough time in the planning and preparation phase. The Not Urgent and Not Important category refers to the time-wasters and need to be avoided - or limited as much as possible.

I then took a good honest look at my "things" and filled in my own quadrant. To be brutally honest, here's what it looks like:

But I will say that my activities under "Urgent and Not Important" can be managed to go under "Not Urgent and Important" - meaning I would manage it in such a way that I would not completely avoid it (because I would argue that it's a creative outlet), but instead I would "save it for later" instead of acting on a compulsion to cook when I have a more pressing demand at the time (which tends to happen a lot when I don't want to face my big scary project).

How about the "Not Urgent and Not Important"? How can I avoid or limit this? Well, certainly junk mail and junk e-mail can be avoided or managed (try to opt-out as much as possible) Do I have to completely give up watching a cooking show on the Food Network, for example? But what if I can multi-task (do a load of laundry, or maybe a little exercise) while I'm watching Barefoot Contessa?

Ok, time to organize my chaos now...

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Suzanne said...

You're comments about the rocks made me think of the story of the "Mayonnaise Jar and Two Beers". You can google that title, there are several versions out there, but you may enjoy it. Thanks for the blog!

Mia said...

Hi Suzanne - thanks, I just googled it! I appreciate your comment :) Thanks for visiting!

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