It so easily comes to surround us - in our minds, on our desks, in our workshops and in our labs. Trouble is that clutter is but one small step from chaos.
I am acutely aware of clutter at the moment, as I have had family visiting from NZ and from Canada over the last month. My workshop is a mess of offcuts, shavings and dust as I feverishly tried to complete a souvenir to send back to Canada without allowing cleanup time as I went. I have also just been reviewing some of the web-site pages ready for this month's update and found I kept stumbling over clutter on the site. There are visions for the web-site, for research projects and for staff education projects all stumbling over each other in my head, all of them trying to get out.
The consequence of clutter in my workshop is an increased likelihood of finger sculpting as the router or saw mistrack; on the web-site clutter makes it harder to find what I need quickly; on the research front, ideas are less likely to germinate as the prospect of getting them out and established can so easily seem too daunting; around the laboratory, clutter leads to a very unprofessional image, increases the likelihood of running out of consumables and having equipment malfunction. Indeed there are few positive things that can be said about clutter.
Clutter is inevitable so how can we deal with it? The answer, I suspect, lies in "Discipline"! Public floggings may not the way to go, though perhaps the Japanese approach of having inflatable effigies of managers for use as punchbags could go some way to relieving a little frustration - and improve your cardiovascular fitness at the same time. In terms of dealing with the "chaos" of the mind, involving someone else in fleshing out the ideas is very useful as there then develops an accountability. If I undertake to have something for my team to take to Melbourne 2008, then the clock is ticking and my credibility is on the line - a public flogging becomes a distinct possibility if I don't deliver!
Lists on a noticeboard are equally important tools and I have pondered lists before. One of the great benefits of lists is that they chart progress and remind you not only of what has to be done but what has been achieved. Of course they also ensure the heat is kept on in terms of delivering as colleagues can quickly assess the need for that public flogging.
Getting the ideas out of the mind and onto a list is therapeutic. The only way for me to declutter my workshop, so it is safe to work in, is to jettison some things and put other things away in an orderly manner so they can be found again. The same is true of the ideas thundering around in my head, they have to be gotten out, sorted, some discarded and others put on the list for further attention. An idea may be brilliant but the execution may not be feasible at this point in time. This needs to be decided quickly and the idea either discarded or archived in a notebook for future reconsideration. Above all else the decision needs to be made, and quickly.
Clutter can sometimes yield gems, but it should be remembered that it is but one vowel away from clotter. Decluttering and destressing go hand in hand. Failure to declutter will lead to clotting and that means nothing will go anywhere - we hope!
'til next month,