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September 16, 2009

I hate filing. Hate hate hate. HATE.

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but left to my own devices, paperwork of all kinds will just pile up. I will not deal with it until someone (roommate, fiance, the IRS, whatever) forces me to sit down and do it. I have been known to just put the piles of paperwork into boxes when I move. And not open those boxes again. Really. It’s that bad.

Unfortunately, I married a man with similar tendencies.

Now, don’t think that we’re living in a warren of paperwork, making the kids tunnel paths through the stuff to get to the bathroom and whatnot. It’s not that bad. But the desks are out of control, and the kitchen table has inclinations.

FINE. I’ll do it. Now, part of getting things done is finding ways to do them that SUCK LESS so I’ll do them more often and more willingly. It’s about hacking my own brain; it’s about knowing myself well enough to face and overcome bad habits, resistance, and buggy mental programming in order to be more functional, productive, and happy. And to see what color the top of the kitchen desk is, BECAUSE I CAN’T REMEMBER.

Here’s my process for this, which can be applied to anything I resist doing but know that I probably really should.

Be Embodied

How can I make this more physically do-able? Am I resisting this because it’s physically difficult? Is there something that my body hates about this process?

In this case, it’s the ergonomics. We don’t have a proper filing cabinet with a cushy rolling chair and all that jazz… we have a couple of file boxes. I’m not interested in going out and buying furniture — the file boxes are fine, and can be stored in the closet of the library when we want ’em out of the way. Sitting at the kitchen table is unpleasant, because putting the boxes on the floor means lots of bending way down, and putting them on the table means lots of awkward reaching. Neither of which are things that my back wants to do for an extended period of time. Laying it all out on the floor is marginally better. Maybe if I grab a pillow it will help… OR, I could steal the short endtables from the living room, and put the filing boxes on those while I work at the kitchen table. It would mean much less bending over or reaching. And if I put a cushion on the chair… now we’re talking.

Be Sensual

How can I make this more pleasant? How would I tantalize a child to do this, how would I convince an animal to do it? How can I make this more of a treat, more fun?

Because really, unless I find a way to make it more pleasant than doing NOTHING, I’ll keep resisting it. So… I can brew a pot of jasmine green tea and sip that while I work. Pleasant smell and pleasant taste. I’ve adjusted the ergonomics already, but I could put on really comfy clothes. I’ll put my hair up so it’ll be out of the way. And it will be very cute, because I enjoy everything more when I feel cute. Perhaps pigtails. WITH RIBBONS. Ha! Take that, resistance! And music… if it’s too bouncy, I’ll want to dance, and then I’ll be cranky about sitting in the chair. If the lyrics are too catchy, I’ll want to sing rather than read the papers to find out what they are and where they need to go. Conveniently, I have made a playlist on my iPod that is nothing but pleasant instrumental music and music in foreign languages I don’t know well enough to sing along with. Excellent.

Be Clever

What are the thought processes that stop me from getting started? What are the thoughts that drive me crazy while I’m doing this?

I’m lucky enough to have the double-whammy of perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. When i see a project, I tend to think in terms of doing ALL of it, PERFECTLY, and IMMEDIATELY, and if it’s to much, I run away. Dumb, I know, but hey, that’s my brain. And when I get rolling in a project, I can get so sucked into doing detail work that I ignore the big picture, or I get so wrapped up in doing it that I don’t notice when I, say, strain my back from too much bending over, or start squinting because the sun has set and I haven’t turned on any lights in the room. I want to do this without needing a trip to the chiropractor or a handful of headache meds. Conveniently, the answer for both of these is to break the work into smaller, manageable chunks. I don’t have to to ALL the filing, I only have to — am only ALLOWED to — file for 40 minutes. That’s enough time to make progress, but not enough time to injure myself or grow really spiteful about doing it. 40 minutes a day until it’s DONE, and then one 40-minute session a week (or less, because even we don’t get that much junk mail) to maintain things. That sounds utterly reasonable and easy.

Be Grateful

Can I visualize what the end result would be like? Can I appreciate the progress I make? Can I *not* beat myself up for procrastinating, or for not doing it all right now, or whatever else I come up with?

I am not ashamed to wallow in accomplishments and little victories. I think of it as positive reinforcement for good behavior. It’s the equivalent of patting the dog on the head and saying “Good girl!”. Or bribing a child with skittles. Or whatever. If I let myself fall in love with progress, with the goals, I’ll be that much more passionate about doing the work.

And that’s the method — look at it from four different angles, and troubleshoot the resistance and roadblocks in each aspect.

Excuse me. I think I have some filing to do.


And a few links you might want to peruse while you’re looking at overcoming your filing frustrations:
Geek to Live – Extreme Makeover: Filing Cabinet Edition (via Lifehacker)
Beat Your Filing Cabinet Into Shape With a Filing System Workflow (via Lifehacker)
How to Simplify Your Filing System; or, Why Stacking Just Doesn’t Work (via Zen Habits)
Discussing the Pros and Cons: File Boxes vs. a Filing Cabinet (on the Zen Habits forum)

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