It was Christmas at the farm.
We children had grown and flown, but we all came back every Christmas. And like all family Christmases, it was a trial.
No matter how much you love your family, they usually infuriate you and this time it was my turn to infuriate my sister.
"Everywhere I go," she cried in frustration, "there's a half-finished job of yours! Why can't you just finish one thing before you start another?"
Guiltily, I stopped laying the table (half-way through) and went back to finish peeling the potatoes.
I thought of that yesterday, as I came home and parked on my half-weeded driveway. But I no longer feel in anyway guilty. And I have the Flylady to thank for this.
I wrote about the Flylady on 5th June. She is an American woman who has made a career out of coaching people how to get out of CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). She helps us break that chaos down into manageable ten or fifteen-minute tasks.
She sends me daily emails with suggested routines for the day. I rarely do what she suggests on the days she suggests them, but somehow, things get done.
One of the things she preaches against is perfectionism. Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination, she says. I see a dusty surface and think, "Oh, I haven't got time to dust properly today," and I leave it. The same layer of dust will annoy me tomorrow and the day after – and I still don't have time to dust properly.
But now I will just dust that bit. When I'm in the bathroom I will just run the cloth around the sink to remove his beard scum (yes, nasty, right?). I don't have time to clean the whole bathroom, but I'll just do that little bit. That annoying smear on the mirror? Yes, I'll just get that.
So, a week ago I had just ten minutes to weed the drive: nowhere near enough. But I started it – and left it unfinished. Yesterday, I drove in and noticed it was half weeded, so I did the other half: another ten minutes – although I didn't have time to weed the path. That will be another ten minutes – sometime.
Of course, there are jobs which, once started, must be completed: I strongly suggest that you do not leave chips half cooked in the pan and go off to do something else. Sometimes there are jobs which need a level of mental concentration: if that concentration is once lost, the thoughts cannot be recaptured, and the task must be started over.
But most tasks are not like that. Most can be done a little at a time.
You just need to get over your need to complete it; your need for perfection, and to start.
For, as Aristotle says, "Well begun is half done." You can do the other half another day.
Although I think my sister would quite like to have words with Aristotle!
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