When Personal Styles Get a Little Too Personal

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"When personal styles get a little too personal" by Lisa Hess (CatholicMom.com)

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My self-discipline seems to have gone out the door with the wrapping paper we tore off presents last month. Usually really good at sitting down and digging into writing, I am finding myself more distracted by well, everything, and more adept at excuses than usual. Procrastination has not taken a vacation but, instead, has taken up residence.

This is somewhat understandable as we celebrated both Christmas and the start of a new year within the last few weeks. A lot of what I was doing instead of writing consisted of preparations and celebrations that were a reasonable substitute for works in progress.

But, in the crush of end-of-semester tasks and holiday preparations, I fell out of the habit of giving my writing the priority it deserved. Consequently, during the week between Christmas and New Year’s – a week I usually take full advantage of – I found myself loath to dig into things for more than a token amount of time. When I factored in my holiday habit of starting the day later than usual, I found that my to-do lists were longer than the number of productive hours I had at my disposal each day.

Sound familiar?

Part of my struggle was that both my daughter and my husband were taking full advantage of vacation mentality, which made perfect sense. Part of me said to just chill and enjoy the break while the rest of me was screaming (internally) about deadlines and characters and compromises that would allow me to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Yeah, right.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, it occurred to me that my I need to see it personal style was at the bottom of my struggles. Though the house looked better than it had during the early part of December, that was somehow not enough. I needed to see the ongoing fruits of my labors.

I needed to see progress.

Organizing by STYLE (Lisa Hess)

Copyright 2020 Lisa Hess. All rights reserved.

The trouble was, my projects were not the kind that yielded immediate visual satisfaction. I was chipping away at longstanding piles of reading material, trying to practice the principles of STYLE (specifically Let it go and Yes, it has a home), and I was blogging and working on writing projects. While my sorting and de-cluttering yielded results, things often looked worse before they got better. As for the writing projects, they gave me no concrete visual evidence of completion whatsoever. Sure, I could see more words on the page, but that didn’t give me the same satisfaction as, say, a freshly cleared space or a newly organized bookshelf.

This temper tantrum by my I need to see it personal style took me by surprise, although it probably shouldn’t have. Personal styles are, by definition, personal. If they are linked to who we are, why should they make themselves known only when we’re organizing?

They shouldn’t – or, they don’t, anyway. And that’s exactly what was happening. Once I’d identified the problem, it was much easier to identify a solution as well.

I have a calendar pad from Knock Knock that has great advice at the bottom: “Take it one checkbox at a time.” Bird by bird, as Anne Lamott says. Each checkmark beside a completed item is a small visualization of what we’ve accomplished.

But, some days, that checkbox is too small, especially when the list is long or the tasks are not quickly checked off.

I needed more.

It was time to break out my backwards to-do list – the tool that gives me visual reassurance that, although it doesn’t look like it, I’m making more progress than I think I am. I needed to physically create a list that celebrated what I had done each day – that would give me the visual reassurance I was seeking. In addition, I needed to tackle my projects in more realistic chunks so that things consistently looked better at whatever stopping point I chose than they had when I’d begun.

These two simple changes didn’t magically bring me success or accomplish my projects for me, but they acknowledged my personal style.

And just like a toddler, that’s all a personal style really wants when she throws a tantrum.


Copyright 2020 Lisa Hess

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About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at Catholicmom.com. She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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