When I was 4 years old, too young to be left unsupervised ( I was the child who had to learn not to touch burners the hard way ), my mom would take me downstairs with her to the laundry room. One of my favorite activities during these monotonous times of sort, wash, and folding was button sorting.
We had a delightful jar of mismatched buttons collected through the years. I’d grab an old tin pan, dump all the buttons out and then sort to my heart’s delight. Red, maroon, circular, star-shaped, old, new, thread-less, blue, green. Each button had a pile to call its home. Then, I’d throw them back into the jar and start all over again.
My dad is a handyman. I’ve never encountered a problem he couldn’t fix. Sometimes, though, his solutions required multiple trips to the local hardware store. I loved accompanying him on these voyages. While he searched for the perfect gauge of wire, I was magically drawn to the screw and nail aisle. Beautiful blue bins with nice, clean labels on the front, telling the astute observer what contents were within. Yet, more often then not, a quick glance inside revealed that the screws and nails were all mixed up! I made it my personal responsibility to right this great wrong.
I created my first spreadsheet at age 10. I used it to schedule out my day, broken into 15 minute increments. Each time slot had an activity or category. If just a category was listed, an additional spreadsheet was utilized that listed out possible options under said category. I haven’t the slightest idea what first possessed me to budget my time so meticulously but if you know me now, it was the beginning of a life-long love affair with Excel.
Sometimes, however, I wonder if I’m stuck in a toxic relationship with my plethora of time-management tools. I make sticky notes to create to-do lists to draft a spreadsheet with a Master Task List. Every step and breath I take is color-coded and duly recorded. It is a wonderfully predictable existence, but a dangerous one. What if Outlook malfunctions? Or I accidentally delete a sticky note? Am I left wandering aimlessly, incapable of eating or sleeping without being told to do so through a preprogrammed project management system?
Not yet. But one day, I’m afraid I will wake up to find myself thoroughly entangled in red tape of my own design.