The Strength In Weakness
Organization is not my strong suit. Yes, I CAN do it. When everything is simple and I have a strictly patterned daily routine... when I schedule it in so to speak. However, when life is passionate and messy and I am really living it... it is the first thing to fall by the wayside. I used to plan and schedule... I remember having a certain day and time for laundry and a certain day and time for dusting... a certain day and time for all of the little household chores and even a certain time just for making sure everything was in its assigned place (and sometimes reassigning). As a person with ADD, scheduling and lists are necessary for me to stay on task and once I make them, I'm a little obsessive about seeing them through.
However, when you add in things like kids, daily responsibilities, some volunteer work, a business, and the desire to self-actualize, the schedule gets cluttered. Organization has always been my weakest Executive Skill... and when I feel even just a bit stretched, it's the first to suffer. I don't write the list down. I try to keep it my brain and there it gets frazzled and something is always forgotten. The more disorganized I am, the more forgetful I become. And the more these skills suffer, the less I am able to clearly prioritize. I try to do too many things at once because I haven't sorted it out. I get a little lost in the shuffle. Things get put in the wrong places or sometimes they don't get put at all. I start them all, but I follow through on less. The laundry gets done but it may not get put away. And my thoughts start to reflect the same pattern. And the more cluttered it gets, the more cluttered I feel-- physically, mentally, and emotionally.
There are a million ideas in my brain at any given time.
When I am structured and organized, I can follow through on them in an order of priority. When I am cluttered, I do not accept the invitation to follow through on any of them, because I am too busy fluctuating between them all. This is the problem I am having today. I have several projects that I want to work on, several projects that life demands I work on, and of course the remedial tasks and responsibilities of the day to day.
I decided to start with this blog, because I know at the moment that my brain is too cluttered to focus on anything. Letting some out, will allow me to take more in. The next thing I will do is put away the papers on my desk and the laundry in the hallway... because I am aware there is a clear relationship between the internal and external environment. Then I will make a list. I will prioritize, accepting the fact that I have to start somewhere, and that it need not all be accomplished today. And I will tackle it. This is me stopping, next I will plan, and then DO.
What works for you? Do you work more efficiently when your space is clear? Do you find that lists keep you organized? Do you ever even feel cluttered? What skill suffers first in times of stress for you? Do you get emotionally overwhelmed? Lose control of your temper? Have trouble hearing anything or paying attention to things outside of your own cluttered head? Maybe you forget a lot of "little" things (like where you put your keys, or maybe to take your lunch)? Or can't seem to establish what you are working toward?
We all have different Executive Skill strengths and weaknesses. When "stress" of any kind comes along (and stress is defined as the feeling of not having enough resources to meet the challenge at hand), your weakest skill is the first to suffer. You may have developed coping mechanisms to support this skill, but as you stretch yourself, you are less likely to implement them. These skills include such things as response inhibition, emotional control, task initiation, organization, goal-directed persistence, metacognition, working memory, sustained attention, planning/prioritization, time management, and flexibility. I believe it is worth taking the time to ask ourselves where our strengths and weaknesses are on this spread. Recognize the strengths and celebrate them, but also own the weaknesses and be prepared for any coping mechanisms you may have in place to get frazzled from time to time. Recognize the tools you have built to aid you in life. I guarantee you have techniques you are using that you have not given yourself credit for. Own these, and be prepared to implement some new ones! It's okay. It's workable. You will get through. By recognizing when and where the weakness appears, you can re-establish and strengthen the coping skills!
For weaknesses in the emotional or response areas, breathing techniques could be phenomenal for you! A daily practice of prayer, meditation, or yoga would probably strengthen these areas as well! There are things we can do to aid our memory and planning skills as well (like keeping things in an assigned place, or preparing ahead of time). Visualization is a great tool to reinforce goals. Time management and prioritization kind of go together. For me, lists are an essential part of this. And set a clock if you need to! I have timed myself doing things in order to accurately assess the time I have in my schedule! Be realistic with your estimates and leave room for interruptions! If task initiation is your weakness, find a way to get over the hump! For me, that would be stating my intention publicly. Once you announce your attention you will feel yourself being held to it! Make yourself accountable! Once you have recognized where your weaknesses are (and yes, many of us have more than one) you will find ways to use your strengths to support them!
I am feeling calmer, clearer, and more in control simply by writing this blog. I am using my strength of metacognition to process and support my weaknesses. Where is your strength? And how can it support you? One line of thought has been expressed. Now I will focus on another. I think this is key for me. By giving action to the thoughts that are cluttering my brain, I get them out of there. By expressing the clutter, I sort through it. It is much like folding the laundry. I look it over, I communicate it, and I put it in it's place. Sometimes I write it, sometimes I talk to my husband or friends about it, sometimes I pray. Communication and expression are always effective tools for dealing with any perceived stress. It doesn't matter how I do this... It's the act of acknowledging the clutter that enables me to sort through it. It's the simple acceptance of my weakness that makes the difference.