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There Will Always Be Filing
by Sharon Teitelbaum

Do you rail against the routine, dull parts of your work? Do you imagine a life in which there are no boring tasks? Well, dream on! There will always be filing. There will always be dust. Like it or not, there is a housekeeping component to any lifestyle or profession you can imagine. If you think there is a lifestyle or profession that doesn't involve humble, repetitive tasks, you haven't looked closely enough. Ask someone who lives that life. She'll tell you about scheduling the interns, scanning vast numbers of emails, going to the dump, emptying the dishwasher, compiling the bibliography, and so forth.

The critical issue, when it comes to mundane maintenance tasks, is to get over your resistance to it. As humans, we only have resistance to things we think we "shouldn't" have to deal with. Have you ever seen anyone have a tantrum about gravity? Of course not. No one in their right mind complains to friends and loved ones about what a burden gravity is for them. About how annoyed they are that when they let go of objects, the objects fall to the ground. How if it weren't for gravity, shoveling snow would be a piece of cake. How much more fun their life would be if they could go up a flight of stairs in a single bound. We don't complain about gravity because we know it to be an immutable fact of life on this planet.

"Filing" is also a non-negotiable fact of life. The creative challenge is to continually get our low-level tasks handled with the least amount of fuss and labor. Yes, the papers in your office have a life of their own, and when you go home in the evening, they rearrange themselves into unsightly and disorganized piles. The task at hand is twofold: get over your surprise, dismay, and your wish to have it be otherwise, and just deal with it.

Here are some suggestions to support you deal with it:

1. Save your mindless jobs for a time of day when you are not at your sharpest. I do my office cleanup, filing, bill-paying, routine phone calls (like making medical or dental appointments), and so forth at the end of my workday, which is when my mental energy is low. Other people do these jobs early in the morning, because it helps them ramp up their energy and focus for the day ahead.

2. Set a specific time period to work on these job and stick to it. If you set up a 2-hour block, honor it -- start on time and stop after two hours.

3. Multi-task some of the housekeeping jobs. While you are on hold for customer service, examine some "probably junk" emails and straighten up your desk. I'm not a great fan of multi-tasking except when it comes to these kinds of tasks.

4. Another way to multi-task is to do these jobs while doing something pleasurable or distracting. Play some great music while you do the data entry for your taxes. Watch a video while you stuff envelopes.

5. Buy yourself a headset for your phone. It frees up your hands miraculously. And it saves untold wear and tear on your back, neck and shoulders.

6. Bunch these jobs. Carve out blocks of time when that's all you do. You can do an amazing amount of work in concentrated blocks of un-ambiguously committed time. You might even begin to look forward to these blocks of time -- they can be relatively stress-free, and it can be quite a boost to get several of them off your list at once.

7. Delegate the work. Find someone else to do the job for you -- hire, barter, trade, beg, cajole, call in your favors, indenture your pre-teen children. Do not be stopped by failure of the imagination!

8. "Disguise it." This is a suggestion from an audience member at a talk I gave recently. In particular, the person suggested hosting a task-party -- a social event at which your guests will be doing some work for you, like putting your photos in albums. Meanwhile, there's a lovely social event going on.

9. Ditch it. SOME of the low level jobs on your list don't really have to get done. Ever. If you have had some items on your to do list for years -- face it -- it's not going to happen. You seem to be surviving without it, so get it off your list and get on with your life. For many people, the photos-into-albums job fits into this category. Buy some nice looking storage boxes, put your envelopes of photos into the boxes and be done with it.

10. Share your progress with friends. Celebrate your successes. It may not be rocket science, but then again, that's what's hard about it!

COPYRIGHT 2002, Sharon Teitelbaum. All rights reserved.

Sharon Teitelbaum,, a Master Certified Work-Life and Career Coach, works with high achievers, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction and work-life balance. She coaches by phone and in person in Boston. Her newsletter, Strategies For Change, offers practical tips for work-life success.

Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance is Sharon's most recent book.

Sharon also also delivers keynotes & workshops on work-life issues. Clients include Children’s Hospital Boston, Merrill Lynch, Arnold Worldwide, professional organizations and alumni groups. She's been featured in national publications including The New York Times,, and Working Mother Magazine.

Married for 30 years, she is the mother of two amazing young women.

Sharon Teitelbaum may be contacted at


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