Simple Things/ Lang Kenneth Haynes
There are many things that we routinely do, so why not just do them? The alternative is to invest a lot of time thinking about and agonizing about things that
we’ll deal with in one way or another and end up doing them anyway. And one irony is that, in most cases, we know how these things will be resolved because
our guts tell us how, often long before any deliberative decision-making process begins. Easier said than done? Of course. Doable? Definitely. I think that most of
us can point to times in our lives (recently or in the distant or not-so-distant past) when we acted in ways that seemed spontaneous — without benefit of charts,
graphs or other indicators to point out trends or otherwise inform our decisions. A necessary step in flowing with this kind of spontaneity is to determine if our
habitual course of action does a couple of things: 1) Does it accomplish its desired purpose? 2) Is the amount of energy invested, to realize the purpose,
reasonable or do we feel like sleeping for twenty years every time our purpose is achieved?
Let’s start out with something simple. Five mornings a week for ten months of the year it is downright agonizing to get little Johnny dressed for kindergarten.
His favorite pants are always in the washing machine or in a pile of clothes on the floor in front of the washing machine. He insists on wearing one particular shirt
and you can rarely locate it even though you had the foresight to buy an identical replacement shirt. You have a few years before the shoe dilemma rears arrives
in earnest and two matching socks represent a gift directly from whatever God you happen to worship. Why not lay out little Johnny’s clothes the night before?
This is not a new or novel idea. If you find it necessary to explain, to little Johnny, why it makes sense to change pants every once in awhile this discussion is
more likely to go better the night before than it would the next morning twelve minutes before he has to leave for school. The old morning clothes battle is like a
vinyl record with a big scratch in it. The record skips and stays stuck in the same groove playing the same few notes over and over and over and over.
Doing little things the night before to help prepare for the next day works wonders. Not just for little Johnny’s habitual clothes battle, but for other things as
well. If adults lay out their clothes the night before that’s one less thing to deal with in the morning. If coffee and water are put in the coffee maker the night
before, then the only thing to be done the next morning is to flip the switch. If you usually make your lunch to take to work, why not, at least, start putting it
together the night before. Opening and closing the refrigerator door twelve times will not make something appear that wasn’t there the first time you opened to
frig. The beauty of going through the exercise the night before is that you’ll have time to make a genuine decision about the relative importance of being
without mayonnaise or salad dressing or whatever the food item happens to be. You can calmly decide if it’s worth going to the store which would require you to
break your last five-dollar bill to buy mayonnaise. You might decide to use mustard instead. Your decision might not delight you, but I guarantee that it will be
more palatable the night before than the next morning when you’re hurriedly putting together a variety of things the next morning. If you know that you are likely
to make it to four meetings on an average day, why schedule seven? Not all road detours are predictable. Not all flat tires are predictable. The person who drove
the company car last didn’t necessarily leave the gas tank full so there is always an outside chance that you’ll need to stop for gasoline.
Here are some other things to consider: You have two cars and you pay insurance premiums on them twice a year. The due dates aren’t a mystery. Insurance
and other companies are very good at telling you when your payments are due. So why get in a tizzy when it’s time to pay up? Sure. There might not be money
to pay. I know that song very well, but the due-date for the payment did not pop out of nowhere. Chances are the bill has been there for a long time and acting
surprised doesn’t extend the payment date. If that were the case all of my payments would be deferred indefinitely and that hasn’t happened yet.
The gist of this little pep talk is not that we should try to do everything at this very second. Nor is the suggestion that we put off the boring little details of
everything indefinitely. If there is a message I think it is that we break down various tasks into doable chunks. This step should, or course, only be undertaken if it is
determined that the task is worth doing in the first place, and my guess is that some of the things on the “to do” list need to be erased. But this is just my guess.
Only you can decide if an item is worthy of being on your list. Maybe little Johnny is difficult when it’s time to get ready to go to school because he really doesn’t
want to go there in the first place and the battle over which pants and shirt he will wear is only a small symptom of a much larger problem. Maybe you’re not in a
position to deal with the enormity of little Johnny’s school defiance and wardrobe insistence at this very second. But you can lay out his clothes the night before
and let him know what he’ll be wearing the next morning. And there’s better than a 50/50 chance that your foresight will buy you a little peace the next morning.
And with that smidgeon of peace and the energy that comes with it maybe you’ll find the gumption to try and untangle the next knot in the school puzzle.
There are at least two versions of this story: One with Charlie Chaplin and the other with Lucille Ball. The long and short is that there is a new employee at
some sort of factory. The job consists of assembling something from parts that pass by the employee on a conveyor belt. The comedic hook is that the conveyor
belt keeps going faster and faster and there is no way that the worker can keep up with the process. The logical thing to do would be to stop the conveyor belt
and take a look at the process. Ask basic questions like does the way we conduct business today still meet our needs or are there adjustments to be made? What is
a good speed for the conveyor belt given the product that we assemble and the talent we have on the line? Are we satisfied with the quality and dependability of
the product we’re putting out?
Some might say that there isn’t time to stop the conveyor belt of life. Others might say that there isn’t even time to slow it down. I guess it all depends on our
perspective. Whether we believe the current process is serving its purpose. Or not.