Time and Space

Sometimes, “a lick-and-a-promise” is a lot better than nothing and can keep you from feeling overwhelmed. It’s an old English phrase, and one some of us were brought up hearing when it came to our clean-up efforts as children. Still, it can have valid applications today.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by a huge task that is facing you? Do you ever feel paralyzed because you can’t see your way through to the other side? Henry Ford once said that any task, no matter how large, is manageable if you break it down into small enough pieces. (One imagines he was pondering this, when he institutionalized the concept of the assembly line.)

A very busy and wonderfully efficient woman says she belongs to the “lick-and-a-promise” school of housekeeping. Because of her busy schedule, she doesn’t have time to thoroughly clean things very often. So, instead, she takes a minute here, a minute there and does what she can. “You’d be surprised,” she says, “how many dishes I can wash in a minute – and there are many, many times throughout the week that I have a minute to spare, but almost no times that I have a free hour…. so I do what I can when I can, and play catch-up later.” It’s a bit of a shift in mindset. Five minutes with a duster can tidy up a room, or a desk.

This philosophy makes sense and applies as well to troubles and challenges as it does to tasks. Avoid standing around wringing your hands when there’s trouble and you’re not quite sure of the best thing to do. Wade on in and get to work on some part of the problem, even if the full solution isn’t apparent to you yet. Repairing one part can help lead to a total solution. It’s all in how you look at it.

When we rouse ourselves to action, it builds our confidence, which can lead to more action and a better handle on the solution. And while your hands are busy, you give your subconscious mind more time to come up with possible solutions. The human brain likes time and space to absorb and ruminate, to work through all those files from our past experiences and learnings. Giving it that time just might be the best gift you give yourself.