Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

I often start a post by thinking of a title, then googling a suitable search term for an image to suit the title. today’s post is an update on my unfuck your desk project and my initial title for it was ‘conquering the paperwork mountain’. but the act of googling that, in itself, showed me that those images wouldn’t be right for what I wanted to say. which helps me decide what I want to say in the post, yes? because they were all versions of the images below, which still make me a little itchy just looking at ’em:

and I included both those images deliberately because that is how I used to feel about paperwork. as an impossible mountain, which I could never hope to climb, so why bother? (and if you are feeling like that too, about anything, whether it is drinking, or paperwork, or your weight, or Christmas aaaaaaarrrghhh… then hopefully what I have to say here will have some general application, and not just be a ‘how I got my filing under control’ monologue that sends everyone to sleep!)

the original UFYD project ran for the ten weeks from 25 August until 3 November. my objective for those ten weeks was

  • to do a minimum of fifteen minutes paperwork, every day
  • to complete between 7 and 14 hours paperwork, every week

in those 70 days I met those objectives as follows:

  • every day? there were fourteen days in which I didn’t do any paperwork at all. eight of those days were Fridays or weekend days in the last half of the project, when I had completed a high number of hours during the week
  • the lowest weekly total was 6.75 hours, in week 4. I had quite a wobble at this point, not doing any paperwork for two consecutive days then making myself get back in the saddle.
  • the highest weekly total was nineteen hours.
  • the overall total (which was utterly manipulated to make it happen, natch!) was 100 hours, an average of ten hours per week.

stone the crows. one hundred hours of paperwork? I tell you true, that is more than has happened at my desk in the preceding ten months. in the past, the trajectory of a piece of vital paperwork across my desk resembled nothing so much as a boulder rolling infinitesimally slowly across Death Valley

so how have my feelings changed about paperwork over that time? well, I have renewed the ten week challenge to myself and have just completed week 3. over last 3 weeks have completed 23 hours of paperwork. and, to clarify, much of this paperwork relates to elements of my working role that have previously been woefully neglected… because if this were ‘just’ the domestic paperwork I would have made more progress by now.

I wanted to find an equilibrium with paperwork, yes? well, I seem to have settled into a pattern of completing at least seven hours paperwork a week – an hour a day, but often mostly during the week. interestingly this is similar to the amount of time I have as a mental benchmark for laundry (an hour’s laundry a day seems ludicrous but I have a largish family with muddy pursuits!). the difference is that I can’t, for practical purposes, leave laundry piling up for more than a day or so. and just because one can, with paperwork, doesn’t mean that the same principle of doing a fairly reasonable chunk of it every day doesn’t apply.

where am I finding this extra hour a day? well, it’s not by reducing my online time, that’s for sure! it has come, by and large, from cutting down on other non-immediately urgent tasks. the house is significantly less tidy. non-urgent work tasks have been shelved for the moment, but are rapidly becoming more urgent in their turn. so, not sure I have completely solved that issue…

so: takeaway as message for change:

  • little and often
  • accountability (here – so thanks for reading)
  • a significant but not huge timeframe
  • the overall intention to keep going at that level, not to stop when it’s done

and all of those also pre-suppose one thing – that I am sober. because I damn well KNOW that I would not have been able to keep myself going at what has been at times a really emotionally difficult project, unless I had the getting-sober under my belt to prove that I Can Do Hard Things, as well as the day-to-day sheer impossibility of doing brain-stretching stuff with a hangover. golly, I have not had a hangover for 386 days. how freeing is that? it makes me feel like a wild horse running on a beach

I posted about wanting to make paperwork into an asset, a strength, like my sober wall. well, that is happening. I do feel that my paperwork is turning into a support rather than leeching away my vital energies. a strong, robust fortress, like the beautiful Bodiam Castle.

so, I will keep on building that fortress.

would you like to hear my Bodiam Castle story? well, we went there with three children under five (ulp) and I was the one who preferred to stay safely at ground level with the pram, while Mr P took the two eldest up on the battlements. I was fretting quite significantly at the bottom, particularly when I heard indistinct but definite sounds of distress from up above, followed by sounds of glee. “What happened up there?” I demanded of Mr P, on their eventual safe descent. “Eldest needed a emergency pee,” Mr P chortled. “And the only place for him to do it was into the gutter.” Eldest’s subsequent shouts of delight were due to him watching his contribution run along the gutter, out of a gargoyle, and into the moat.

so, my lovelies. have a grand week.

and if you get a chance to pee into a moat – hell, do it!

Prim xx