One of my first jobs out of college was in a Chicago Advertising Agency. My boss was the Creative Director, and I also worked for several copywriters and whatever Account Executives needed extra assistance at any given time. My desk was always piled high with papers and projects, and other people’s priorities.
One day, the president’s secretary came to me and said, “Betty, how would you like to clear your desk?” At first I thought I was being fired, but that wasn’t it at all. The agency was pitching a major client, and they wanted me to coordinate and prepare all the materials they would need for the presentation and proposal. I would be working exclusively on that, so all my regular work would be distributed to other people to complete.
The next morning, she and I went over all the projects I’d been working on, and she took everything away to hand off to others. I still remember how wonderful it felt to have a totally cleared desk, and to feel completely caught up. I was able to savor this feeling for about five minutes, which is when the work for the new project started coming in and piling up. It ended up being even more work and pressure than normal, but I enjoyed the clarity and focus of working on one project, and one project only.
I haven’t thought about that in a long time. What reminded me of it now is that I just spent several weeks totally immersed in a project that involved a lot of copy and a very tight deadline. Pretty much every spare moment I had was dedicated to the job, and some of my other work had to get pushed aside for the time being. I still honored my commitments and obligations, but I also did the bare minimum on some activities, and had to pass on others completely.
In the back of my mind, I marveled at the fact that whenever there’s a vitally important project or priority we have to take care of, most of us can find a way to put aside everything else in order to give it the attention it needs.
Because we’re approaching the middle of December, I couldn’t help but think of this in relation to preparing for Christmas. Not in terms of trimming the tree or shopping for gifts, but in terms of preparing my heart for the coming of Christ. Every year as Advent begins, I’m reminded of the real meaning of Christmas, and encouraged to spend more time in prayer and preparation. But my activities and actions never fully support my good intentions.
Maybe I just need to clear my desk. Focus only on this one “project.” Make it my highest priority and give it my full attention during every spare moment I have. This doesn’t mean I’ll ignore or abandon my “regular” work or obligations, or the more secular aspects of the holiday season. It just means I’ll keep my mind, my eyes, and my energy on what’s really important right now. And I’ll enjoy the serenity, the peace, and the pleasure that I know will come with it.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on December 11, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014
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