The Paradox of Accumulative Action

Apr. 4th, 2016

There is a well-known strategy for accomplishing a large task that was first explained to me by the FlyLady. Marla’s essential concept is 15 minutes of decluttering a day piles up over time until before you know it your home is under control. It has many more nuances and helpful layers than that, but that is the core principle.

I have put this into practice in my own life in many ways. Decluttering is one (though I must confess most of my decluttering happens in large, unintentionally overwhelming chunks), knitting is another, and working on goals one step per day. Another way is the restocking list that we use at Ringcrafts to slowly recreate products sold to customers for our next show.

The most fascinating thing about the 15-minutes-a-day principle to me is its paradoxical counterpart. Just as 15 minutes can accumulate to accomplish great things, so can small, inconsequential things wear a human mind down to the point where they are wallowing in a pit, with no idea how they got there.

A critical comment isn't that hard to deal with, for most of us. Or being late for an appointment, once. Or breaking a plate. Or losing your keys. Or hearing of the death of a favourite actor. Or having to cancel time of relaxation in favour of work. All of these things on their own are not noticeably detrimental, in the natural course of things.

What if they all added up? Little things, over time, just poking at us, draining little bits of our energy, wearing down our ability to function. It happens. It happens to everyone, at one time or another. And then what happens if something really huge hits us? What's left in reserve to bring to bear on the new problem?

The one half of this paradox is the other's solution. It does take effort, though, to consciously decide to take that 15 minutes per day for ourselves, to do whatever it is that recharges our ability to function properly. And it takes courage to be honest with ourselves about what that is.

Are you ready for that challenge?