Why Are The Contents of My Briefcase Important?
We shuffle loads of papers home at night with the expectation they will be worked on, only to feel guilty when you didn’t get to them all. Or perhaps you bring things to work so you can be productive on your lunch hour, packing every last minute with paying bills or learning a new skill.
Expectations play a large part in how we think about how well we are doing. You might have had the most productive day you have ever had in your life, but somewhere a voice inside is saying, “but you didn’t get to the XYZ report you’ve been carrying around for three weeks.” We need to adjust our expectations of how much we can get done in order to feel good about what we are not doing. As Brian Tracy points out in Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (BK Life) (aff), “There is never enough time to do everything you have to do…the fact is you are never going to get caught up.” We need to let go of our expectations of how much we want to get done, and realistically look at how much we can get done. How much stuff you carry around with you every day speaks to what your expectations of your productivity are. We need to bring that in line with what can actually be accomplished.
Inventory of My Briefcase
These are the actual contents of my briefcase as of today: I have a zippered binder cover that contains articles to read, letters to answer, catalogs to peruse, as well as the paperwork for my current design projects. Inside are also two CDs to listen to, five pens, a nail file, a calculator, blank checks, four pieces of paper to be put away at home, a pile to be filed at home and a puzzle book. I also carry around a zippered carrier with my Moleskine, and at least one (usually two) of the books I am currently reading. Today it also contains a set of Sudoku puzzles. At the bottom of the case is my umbrella, a clip from a bread bag, a packet of painkiller, my MP3 player and my current knitting project.
The thought is that I will take down time and lunch breaks at work to get through all these things. This week, though, I have been spending my work down time catching up on online reading, and lunches have been booked with friends. So why do I continue to haul this stuff about?
How Much Is Too Much?
I have always envied those people who can walk into work with only their lunch. I don’t know that I will ever get there, but I am going to try. I believe that if you are carrying one extra thing around, that is too much. The briefcase should not be a black hole, but rather an container that stores things you will be working on that day.
How To Get Rid of It
Let’s look at the stuff you might take home from work tonight first. Take a look at your schedule. How much time do you have to devote to working tonight?
In my case, I have my daughter’s piano lesson, and a web update scheduled. I will have no time to work on anything else. I will take no work papers home with me tonight.
Next, let’s look at what you bring in. Ideally you would pack your case the night before, but it can be done in the morning. First in, put the work you brought home yesterday. Next, look at your free time tomorrow. Will you have time to do some reading? If so, put in your book. If not, leave it out. Do you have to run errands? Put related paperwork in your briefcase. Don’t put anything in the case that you only think you might have time to get to.
In my case, I do not have a lunch meeting tomorrow, but reading is impossible in our noisy lunchroom, so I will bring my Sudoku book instead.
I will not be bringing anything home tonight from work, and tomorrow I will only bring in my purse, my Sudoku book and my MP3 player.
So what’s in your briefcase?