In the meantime, here is some music …
The other day I was talking ‘personal organisation’ with my fellow-retiree and WordPress correspondent Curt Mekemson – click on the name to view his enjoyable blogsite. Our conversation reminded me of a highly effective system I’d begun to use by the end of my working life. If I’d seen it earlier, I might have more hair now!
It’s paper-based but I’m sure it could be adapted for computer. I’d recommend a read to anybody, if only for a glimpse of perfect order in an otherwise disorderly world … 🙂
The Less Stress Desk System
Operates on the “doing one job at a time” principle and “out of sight, out of mind” principle. Also keeps a running check on the work in-hand while constantly keeping papers in the right priority. Most desks have piles of papers on them, usually in no order of priority. Pending baskets invite paper piles. Double and triple tier baskets double or triple the size of the pile and the pressure. They are a constant reminder of work waiting to be done, and they distract from the current job. The less stress desk system cures this. Here’s how it works.
It uses one in-tray, one waste-paper basket and one bank of size A4 drawers. Drawers are better than baskets or trays because they keep pending work out of sight, but aren’t essential to make the system work. The drawers are labelled as follows:
Under pain of death, people are warned to put papers only in the in-tray on your desk. Each time you return to your desk, or complete a task (whichever is convenient to your working style), you sort, not deal with, the in-tray contents as follows:-
1. Take the first in-tray document, scan it quickly and ask yourself “Am I ever going to need this piece of paper again?” Be ruthlessly honest in your answer. If the answer is “No” put the document in the waste-paper basket.
2. If the answer is “Yes” put it away immediately in the appropriate drawer of the bank of 6, including papers that you intend passing to other people. Put these in Redirect.
3. If you have a Secretary or an Assistant, have him/her empty and deal with Redirect.
4. Don’t go home until you have dealt with all the contents of the Action Today drawer. These will be processed one at a time and put in one of the other drawers or waste-paper basket as appropriate. If you are rigid in your discipline about not leaving each day until the Action Today drawer is empty you will become very realistic about what you put in it.
5. As you leave at the end of the working day, put the contents of the Action Soon drawer in the in-tray ready for the same process at the start of the next day. This keeps pending material under constant review and prioritises it constantly.
6. To prevent the Info Needed drawer becoming like the usual pending basket, handle it as follows:-
a) Write on the original document the action needed from another person to provide the info needed plus the date you expect it by with a note to let you know if the person can’t do it by that time immediately on receipt.
b) Note this in your diary on that date. Put the document in ‘Redirect’ to be passed on but with a note for it to be copied and this copy go into the ‘Info Needed’ drawer. Your diary will bring this to your attention at the right time to pull out and put in your ‘Action Today’ drawer.
c) People will get used to meeting your diary date if they know you don’t forget and automatically chase them on the due date.
7. Put away any material that will take more than a few moments to read – e.g, Trade Journals – in the Read Drawer. Plan blocks of time to do reading daily. And filing things away can be relaxing when you don’t want to do anything else.
And there you have it. Almost makes me want to go back and have a second crack at it. Almost.
The idea is that I keep typing until the glass is empty and then stop. It’s one way to galvanise myself when more than a week has passed since my previous post and I can’t think of what to write.
Not that there’s nothing to write about. If anything, there’s too much. I mean, where do you start? And anyway, my pesky inner critic continues, what good will it do when the world is already awash with unread words and you can barely bring yourself to read any of them – much less actually add any of your own to the swirling soup?
Ah, what does he know? He doesn’t get out much.
Besides, I don’t have to write about anything. All I need to do is follow one word with another. A sprinkling of commas and full stops (periods over the Pond) and Bob’s your uncle!
“Bob’s your uncle” is a phrase commonly used in United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries that means “and there it is” or “and there you have it.” Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions or when a result is reached. The meaning is similar to that of the French expression “et voilà!” or the American “easy as pie” or “piece of cake“. (Wikipedia)
Hmm, this is easier than I thought it was going to be! With so many words online, there’s no danger of me running short. And now that I’ve mastered Cut & Paste, well, ain’t no stoppin’ us now …
Hey, better and better! This interweb thingy’s outasight! Ya don’t have to get bogged down in present-day doom-and-gloom when you can still party in more innocent days gone by!
Maybe I should take my tune from a social media acquaintance whose one contribution to the Brexit, er, Debate is to post cheery stuff from 1972 – the year before we joined The Common Market, as it was then called. Ah, happy daze … well, happy if you’re a victim of arrested development … gee, remember when songs off commercials went to Number One instead of the other way around?
Wow, just to think, three or four sips ago I was in the throes of a colossal communication breakdown and now I’m well and truly plugged into where it’s hot and happening! I’m even starting to discover a youth I never had. Is there no limit to my potential cultural reach? Running out of words? I should cocoa …
Question: Perhaps you can help Americans with a phrase, I should cocoa, that at least one of us finds rather bewildering.
Answer: Since few Americans know of or use rhyming slang, that isn’t surprising. It originally stood for “I should say so!”, a sarcastic exclamation to express disbelief, derision, scorn or indignant negation. You might also render it as ““You must be joking!” “Not on your life!” or “No way!” …
… It appeared in London in the 1930s but became more widely known in the 1950s through its use on the BBC radio programme The Billy Cotton Band Show. Many people were reminded of it as a result of the Supergrass hit with that title in 1996.
It’s an odd example of the type, since it’s a straight rhyme of cocoa with “say so” without the bipartite phrasing usual in terms like apples and pears (for stairs), daisy roots (boots), or plates of meat (feet) that leads to their being abbreviated as — for example — plates, as a further level of in-crowd obfuscation. Though it has been recorded in the longer forms coffee and cocoa and tea and cocoa, these look like afterthoughts, attempts to force an existing saying into the standard mould (if these were genuinely the original forms, one would expect to hear coffee and tea as short forms, but one never does).
My thanks to World Wide Words for that informative infusion of wise words. But let’s not be picky. Any kind of words gratefully received, as it happens, and with at least a mouthful of beer in my glass who knows where I’m going next? Time and space are as nothing to a cybernaut like me who’s just remembered how to fly … eat your heart out, Orville!
Not, of course, to be confused with the early aviation pioneer and brother of Wilbur:
Wilbur and Orville Wright were American inventors and pioneers of aviation. In 1903 the Wright brothers achieved the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight; they surpassed their own milestone two years later when they built and flew the first fully practical airplane.
Well, that’s quite enough excitement for now!
Besides, I’ve swigged the rest of my beer …
Reading this, it’s easy to despair.
But my irrepressible inner optimist reminds me of something Karl Marx said. Mankind, he suggests, always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve.
If that is true then all we need to do is to embrace the idea of ‘a spiritual and cultural transformation’ where selfishness, greed and apathy become history and new collective values take their place.
I only wish it was. My fear is that things are going to get worse before they can get better. And fear is a big inhibitor of imagination. How to imagine a better future, eh? How to remember the past in a way that helps us construct a brighter world?
Ah, such difficult questions for the solitary blogger! Perhaps TS Eliot can offer assistance. Here’s the opening of Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets:
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”
Human kind cannot bear very much reality …
I wonder? What do you think?
The brutal truth behind this comic representation is hard to face – any laugh the cartoon evokes is likely to be a bitter one.
By way of preparation for my own writing I’ve been reading the poems of John Clare, an agricultural worker whose life was blighted by the forced enclosure of common land almost two hundred years ago. People fled the countryside in droves for the towns and cities.
In his rough verse with its gentle dialect, Clare describes somewhat sadly how a sustainable way of life lasting many centuries gave way to the first stirrings of capitalist agribusiness. With hindsight we can glimpse in his words the beginnings of the process whereby relatively balanced ecologies mutated into sterile farming factories run by machine.
Is it too far-fetched, I wonder, to imagine a future where this process is reversed – where humankind and the natural world have once again learned to co-exist in symbiotic harmony? I read this from a report on the Hay book festival in today’s Guardian Review:
Climate is at the forefront of the minds of novelists, particularly John Lanchester and Amitav Ghosh, the latter recalling being caught in a freak tornado … ‘In novel after novel, I tried to write about this … and I could never do it … What happens in real life is more improbable than what happens in a book – and this is the paradox of the modern novel,’ he said.
Lanchester … championed the ‘moral obligation to be optimistic, because … if we despair we won’t act’. Most of the people set to be affected by the climate emergency are yet to be born. ‘That’s why works of the imagination are so important,’ Lanchester said. ‘In effect we are having to imagine these people into being and then act on behalf of their interests. This is a new thing.’
In the spirit of this, I wonder if it’s possible to read John Clare’s words not only as the chronicle of a tragic past but also as the prophesy of a more hopeful future?
Far spread the moorey ground a level scene
Bespread with rush and one eternal green
That never felt the rage of blundering plough
Though centurys wreathed spring’s blossoms on its brow
Still meeting plains that stretched them far away
In uncheckt shadows of green brown, and grey
Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene
Nor fence of ownership crept in between
To hide the prospect of the following eye
Its only bondage was the circling sky
One mighty flat undwarfed by bush and tree
Spread its faint shadow of immensity
And lost itself, which seemed to eke its bounds
In the blue mist the horizon’s edge surrounds
Now this sweet vision of my boyish hours
Free as spring clouds and wild as summer flowers
Is faded all – a hope that blossomed free,
And hath been once, no more shall ever be
Inclosure came and trampled on the grave
Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave
And memory’s pride ere want to wealth did bow
Is both the shadow and the substance now
The sheep and cows were free to range as then
Where change might prompt nor felt the bonds of men
Cows went and came, with evening morn and night,
To the wild pasture as their common right
And sheep, unfolded with the rising sun
Heard the swains shout and felt their freedom won
Tracked the red fallow field and heath and plain
Then met the brook and drank and roamed again
The brook that dribbled on as clear as glass
Beneath the roots they hid among the grass
While the glad shepherd traced their tracks along
Free as the lark and happy as her song
But now all’s fled and flats of many a dye
That seemed to lengthen with the following eye
Moors, loosing from the sight, far, smooth, and blea
Where swoopt the plover in its pleasure free
Are vanished now with commons wild and gay
As poet’s visions of life’s early day
Mulberry-bushes where the boy would run
To fill his hands with fruit are grubbed and done
And hedgrow-briars – flower-lovers overjoyed
Came and got flower-pots – these are all destroyed
And sky-bound moors in mangled garbs are left
Like mighty giants of their limbs bereft
Fence now meets fence in owners’ little bounds
Of field and meadow large as garden grounds
In little parcels little minds to please
With men and flocks imprisoned ill at ease
Each little path that led its pleasant way
As sweet as morning leading night astray
Where little flowers bloomed round a varied host
That travel felt delighted to be lost
Nor grudged the steps that he had ta-en as vain
When right roads traced his journeys and again –
Nay, on a broken tree he’d sit awhile
To see the moors and fields and meadows smile
Sometimes with cowslaps smothered – then all white
With daiseys – then the summer’s splendid sight
Of cornfields crimson o’er the headache bloomd
Like splendid armys for the battle plumed
He gazed upon them with wild fancy’s eye
As fallen landscapes from an evening sky
These paths are stopt – the rude philistine’s thrall
Is laid upon them and destroyed them all
Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’
And on the tree with ivy overhung
The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung
As tho’ the very birds should learn to know
When they go there they must no further go
Thus, with the poor, scared freedom bade goodbye
And much they feel it in the smothered sigh
And birds and trees and flowers without a name
All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came
And dreams of plunder in such rebel schemes
Have found too truly that they were but dreams.
Well, a nomad in cyberspace – true to his online monicker, at least! – has been going AWOL of late, wandering zig-zag byways through the mists of his mind in search of old memories and new memes with a view to writing a magnum opus that his kids and grandkids might one day care to read.
That’s his excuse, anyhow, for the relative paucity of posts. Wonderings and wanderings, it appears, aren’t always adjacent. But he does appreciate the value of sharing his thoughts on the interweb and intends posting occasional observations about this project to help him maintain focus and perhaps gain a little feedback.
So here’s a taste of a philosophy that could be useful, both to structure and to theme. He – ah, what the heck! – I have written about it before but hit this link for a succinct summary which may be of interest to other would-be writers.
And finally, a fresh new update on the tired old canine alibi …
If I’ve taken my eye off blogging in recent months, it’s because of my single-minded sorting through old stories and memories with a view to writing a first-person narration which uses actual experiences in a lightly-fictionalised form. I expect some of this to surface here in due course, but just for now let me share a little of my stimulus material.
If this nudges any nostalgic feelings in you, I’d love to hear about them!