On the whole, I am a tidy person. Clutter makes me crazy and disorder makes it difficult for me to concentrate. Granted, while I am deep in the creative blood fever of a project I might not notice that seventeen layers of artifacts have insinuated themselves upon my workspace. This includes both my physical desk as well as my computer, where I have sometimes amassed upwards of 200 open tabs on my browser as I research a topic.
The older I get (I am not unaware of how frequently I use that phrase), the more I am finding myself capable of pushing detritus to the corners of my periphery where it can accrue at an astounding rate if unchecked (meaning ignored). And again, this detritus can be virtual as well as physical. While those stacks of unread books, newspaper articles, magazines, and whitepapers grow on both ends of my desk, the list of to-do items, long neglected and not written down, accumulates at the edge of my unconscious mind.
These days, it takes some major event to propel me into housecleaning mode. It could be an important guest threatening to drop in. It could be some object desperately needed and known to have been seen since the last move but now nowhere to be found. It could be that pesky cancellation notice from the business insurance carrier that comes after the renewal notice slipped unread into the lower depths of one of the to-be-read stacks. It could be a dust bunny of Schwarzeneggerrian proportion rising from a dark corner of the office and threatening swift and total annihilation.
The most recent event was the realization that as a consequence of having completed my first term teaching business analysis at UW, my web site needed a facelift. In fact, it needed more than that. It had been a long time since I had done anything with it. The language had grown stale while the visual style was decidedly archaic. More important, I had found a sharper focus as a result of my recent work and needed to bring that to the forefront.
I started by performing a near total rewrite of the web site content. Before publishing, though, I had several people read the new material for focus, clarity, and readability. I also wanted as many eyes as possible looking for spelling and grammatical problems. Then I took the material to a web designer who explained some of the realities of the online presence in 2015. The designer’s advice took two forms: visual and textual.
Of the two, it was the textual advice that was the pill of profound bitterness. It is a sore point for me, but I cannot deny the truth. Web sites are not for reading. Rather, they are for gathering as much information in the form of impressions as rapidly as possible. My revisions, while substantially shorter than the original, still presented three times too many words. Never mind the beautiful prose, I needed to whittle these ideas down from complete thoughts into bullets and sound bites.
The visual was infinitely easier. That is not my trade. My knowledge of current fonts and design concepts is limited and likely to remain so. My consultant gave me straight advice that I was able to implement easily. I will be going back periodically to pursue an ongoing program of incremental improvement. In the mean time, I continue to find ways to sharpen the image and reduce the drag of the well-crafted paragraph.
Updating the web site also meant that I needed to synchronize the balance of my web presence. All of my social media presence (primarily Facebook and LinkedIn) needed to be reworked. As I proceed to fine-tune the web site, I need to keep these other media in mind.
By this point I had the spring housecleaning bit in my teeth. I also attacked my desk, sorting through the stacks of unread material and addressing all of the unsorted paper that represented issues unaddressed. I reduced the mound of reading to a single pile of about six inches in height. I punched through the entire to-do list and addressed, filed, or sent to recycling every last piece of paper.
It is a good feeling – almost cathartic – to have returned order to my office and my professional life. A sense of calm has descended and I can look past my laptop screen and see the corners of my desk. This affords me a renewed precision of focus that I cannot recommend too highly. I almost feel as if I have returned from a two-week vacation and not found two-weeks of accumulated work waiting for me. If I were not such a cynic, I would say that I was downright light-hearted.
There is one aspect of the spring housecleaning that slipped through the cracks this time around. I did not deal with the dust bunnies of unusual size. They still lurk in the dark corners of the office, waiting to pounce. If I concentrate really hard at looking at this screen while I write, I cannot see them. I suppose I will have to deal with them sooner or later, but in the words of Scarlet O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”
When was the last time you gave your message a touch up? Can anyone suggest a method for conquering the dust bunnies without professional help?