In his monthly newsletter, Balancing Act®, Alan Weiss writes succinctly about being organized and going overboard with order. Here is his article in full:
Regimen or compulsion?
My bias is that we need to organize parts of our lives that are important. This varies in its significance.
I suppose if someone knows where to find something quickly, that's the point, no matter how bad the clutter may appear to an observer But I don't want my surgeon asking no one in particular, "Where did I leave that clamp?"
Creating a regimen around an exercise schedule, or work responsibilities, or family obligations, or civic and social commitments, enables most people to be more efficient and, ironically enough, more flexible. (In common parlance: multi-tasking.)
But an excessive regimen can become a compulsion, which is the height of inflexibility and at the margins of a behavioral disorder. (OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, refers to an obsession with an idea and a compulsion about behavior.)
I've met people who have decided to remove all fats from their foods, to the extent that they concoct strange replacements, the pursuit consumes their social lives, and, to me, they look far more unhealthy than if they allowed a moderate amount of fat to enter their systems.
Exercise is a great regimen, for mind and body, but the people I see running in rain, snow, fog, and other hazardous conditions I think are more compulsive than smart. Wouldn't a treadmill suffice for that day? And would your health be drastically affected if you skipped one day? I work out three times a week with a personal trainer, but I don't beat myself up when I can't get there because of other commitments. Nor do I compensate for it through some forced exercise. (The trainer beats me up enough for the both of us.)
We've seen people whose desks are beyond orderly—the pencils must be the same length and aligned perfectly, the phone pad squared against the phone. We recognize that as "over the edge." But there are also subtle routines which also form compulsions which we too easily overlook.
An orderly life is sensible, but a compulsive one is not. Even "order" makes little sense when you sacrifice value for the sake of order. I've seen restrictions placed on guests, pets, and even children to the extent that I wonder why the guests, pets, and children were included to begin with. (I knew a woman so fastidious about her Mercedes that her husband, who bought the care for her, was forbidden to drive it.)
In many cases, I love my ducks in a row. But there are times when I just run through the bushes, because it seems like fun. And, interestingly enough, the ducks on my pond have yet to line themselves up in a row.
©2008 Alan Weiss