a time to talk about systems, please

“What makes a system effective is how effortless it is to perform and its repetitive performance,” I tell my partner as he sits on the bed, looking up at me as he takes notes on a small notepad, half mockingly and the other half truly listening. I use this time to really ramp up my lecturer persona, while also feeling free to talk about at secret passion of mine: Systems.

Systems exist all around us. Some more obvious than others. Some we are subjected to and others we willing participate within. Hegemonic structures, systemic oppression and governmental systems. Thankfully, these are not the systems I’m talking about now (for once), but rather I’m concerned with the everyday systems we create for ourselves, alone, maybe without ever sharing with another.

This bedroom lecture spawned from my partner’s perpetual disorganization that I saw as affecting him in small ways. I realized while talking to him — he appears to have existed “systemless” thus far, or at least their room appears to be so — that I have (out of necessity) created systems in many areas of my life.  Usually the system emerges out of an urgent need to avoid falling apart forever. I say his humorously now, but it is quite sincere. I’ve heard it called an “executive functioning problem,” a failure to “self-regulate,” whatever that means. What I do know is that I’ve existed this long through implementing creative systems to avoid repetitive failure. 

Things like remembering to take the keys of out the door after your unlock it, paying bills on time, keeping your devices charged and making it to that event you’ve known about for months, may appear like common sense performances to some, but for many, without repetitive systems that instill habits, these actions are a daily struggle.

Some systems: I place my keys on a hook nailed to the frame of the door, which hangs in eyesight. I convert everything to a color-coded google calendar “events” with reminders that alert me hours before. And I mean everything is in this calendar — every assignment, appointment and pill.  For my clothes, each season in an effort toward minimalism, I donate what was worn the least. I have large white boards all over my rooms room to collects ideas together in one place. For my documents I’ve used almost every organizational app yet to be discovered and have learned what the ever-changing “cloud” can offer. And for my sentimental items, I have a day (the 1st of each month) when I determine what is positively nostalgic and what is negatively sentimental and I discard or store (in my sentiment box) each item I deem “necessary to keep.” The most important system to keep, is a schedule: when the time you should leave for the train, eat lunch,  head to bed, and how many pages you should read/write each day, is all laid out and planned for you in advance, suddenly you’re failing much less and you have more room to think and breath.

During my lecture I realized that it is Jordan’s past and future which get in the way of his ability to create proper systems to account for the many “things” he accumulates. And that often attached to one small act, is a string of associations and memories that shroud the present moment. What a proper system really does is to reduce the likelihood of being pulled off our course by emotions or distractions, while creating room in our minds to create; they can provide us with the freedom to think, feel, and act on our own terms. 

That is all. I’m still a mess, though.

Emily

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