When I feel overloaded and overwhelmed and a sense of loss of control over important parts of my life, I can usually look at my desktop to help me regain a sense of control.

As much as we have come to rely on electronics for communicating, banking, and other activities, I still get a lot of mail and other required paperwork.  Unfortunately, much of it falls into a sort of intermediate category between “Act on this immediately” and “File it away for much later use”.  Some things need to remain handy until I get more information in order to take action.  There may be meetings or conferences that I might like to attend, but since I can’t do everything I want, I will have to see what else might be occurring at the same time.  There may be purchases that I would like to make, but I’m not quite certain whether I need it or should be spending money on it.  And there may be professional or other journals and articles that I definitely want to read when I get the time to do so.  As a result, my desk frequently looks disorganized – although my mind’s Filing system usually enables me to quickly locate what I need in a relatively short period of time. 

I do envy those people who are decisive enough or compulsive enough to maintain a perpetually clean desk – but I haven’t been motivated enough to join them.  I have found, however, that the exercise of putting the top of my desk in order approximately once a week does more than provide me with a relatively clean desktop for a few days.  It actually enables me to feel more in control of the rest of my life.  Looking at a clean desk gives me the visual message that I am in control of what I choose to control, and that gives me more confidence in dealing with other challenges.

In fact, sometimes when I face a challenge, and my desk is already pretty clean, I can achieve the same benefit by opening one of the desk drawers and cleaning out some of the stuff that’s accumulated since the last time I did it. The disorganized desk might be just a metaphor for you, especially if your desk is always clean (or if you don’t have a desk).  You may have some other area of your life that needs attention – e.g., bookshelves, clothes closest, kitchen cupboard, medicine cabinet – and you’ve been neglecting it.  You may be surprised by how good it will feel to take that small step that will enable you to control that part of your life, at least temporarily.  Accomplishing it, however, may also serve as a springboard for recognizing that your ability to control that small part of your life can develop an attitude that can generalize to feeling in control of your ability to manage more and more of life’s challenges without feeling overwhelmed.


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Ron Kaiser, Ph.D. Psychologist, Educator, Author, Podcaster

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D., is a positive health psychologist, coach, author, podcaster, educator, consultant, and speaker. He has been in practice for more than five decades, including 25 years as Director of Psychology at the world-famous Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University. As an innovative thought leader in the field, he has developed the concepts of THE MENTAL HEALTH GYM, GOAL-ACHIEVING PSYCHOTHERAPY (GAP), THE TYPE P PERSONALITY, and REJUVENAGING®.

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