Written by Jeremy Bangs
Orderliness seems so simple.
Of the character strengths discussed at Families of Character, it’s the least philosophical. It’s not impacted by fear or bravery or judgement the way other aspects of character are. It’s order… as in “doing things in order.” It’s simply a matter of creating a plan and executing it.
Then why is it that I’m writing this behind schedule at 10:30pm at night on a day where 14 hours passed between the time I left the house and the time I got back? Why is the shirt my daughter needs to wear for her field trip tomorrow still tumbling around in my dryer? It’s because I have an orderliness problem.
I’m not alone, either. Lack of order seems to be an epidemic in an age when there are more digital tools at our disposal to combat the problem than ever before. It’s not enough. We’ve turned it into an area of study. A sizable section of the self-help section in the bookstore closest to you is devoted to orderliness (they call it time management, but it’s the same thing).
I have yet to really dive into this topic, but I have some theories about orderliness I hope to flesh out in the weeks to come.
First: I suspect a root cause of disorderly living is simply not being realistic about what we can accomplish in a given amount of time.
I’m not talking about just saying “no” to projects a little more often (because that’s a given). What I’m talking about is more akin to those little lies we tell ourselves when the alarm clock wakes us up.
“If I don’t toast my bagel or put anything on it and just eat it in the car,” we say to ourselves, “I can sleep here another five minutes.”
And we do. If we make a few of those deals with ourselves, suddenly we’ve launched our day based on a schedule that’s so tight we can’t afford to hit more than two red lights on our way to work or we’ll be late. And once we’re late to work, the snowball of chaos is rolling downhill and there’s no stopping it.
I wonder how many of us set that kind of trap for ourselves in just about every aspect of time management. I’ll look into it.
Second: turn down the noise.
In Denver, we have two pro sports teams working their way through the playoffs (the Nuggets and the Avalanche). Talk radio hosts spending a lot of time talking about the benefits of home court or home ice advantage. Home is better, right?
Mark Schlereth, longtime NFL analyst and holder of three Super Bowl rings, says that’s not always the case. On his morning radio show, he has often talked about the relief he felt playing games on the road because there was no distraction. He didn’t have to get tickets for extended family and friends when he played on the road. Their travel and their lodging wasn’t his concern. In other words, there was less noise.
Think about it for a second. Professional athletes, almost by definition, are elite in their ability to compartmentalize their lives. Their ability to focus on goals is as valuable to them as their physical gifts. And they have tremendous resources at their disposal to manage their lives at home and at work.
So if someone like that can look back on his playing career and recognize the struggle to keep the everyday noise of life down, we probably need to look at the noise in our lives as well.
As we continue working through this month-long focus on orderliness, these are some of the things that will be running through my head. Share your thoughts with us on social media, too. I’m anxious to get a handle on this virtue.