I’ve been sick. It’s not the "I couldn’t get out of bed to meet the Queen" kind of sick, nor have I been compromised to the point where if the world ceased to exist at noon today I might not catch on until, say, November. I just feel yucky. And for me, yucky can be much worse than incapacitated. This is because it gives me too much time to think.
When I am a blur of productive activity, I tend to not notice or care that the blinds need dusting or that a very large spider has been hard at work recreating a scene from "The Munsters" somewhere near the point my south-facing dining room wall meets the volume ceiling. Yet when I slow down, either by choice or by circumstance, all I notice is the deferred maintenance. I see dirt at the atomic level and I suddenly believe that my highest priority is to either clean the carpets or plant crops.
I see the familiar junk pile near the front door, the one which could easily be mistaken for the U.S. Postal Service’s bulk-mail back room, as a hideous monument to my shortcomings as a wife, a mother and a patriot. I become agitated by the fact that my daughter’s ninth-grade report card is prominently displayed on my refrigerator. What proud parent doesn’t do such things? The problem is that she is in college now. In short, I obsess.
Business has been slower lately. Sure, we still have our handful of listings and escrows and buyers actively looking, but we definitely have a little more time on our hands. Blame it on the calendar, blame it on Freddie, Fannie, the Lehman siblings or any of the other "guys" in the news, but it is what it is, and I learned long ago not to fight the market cycles. If history repeats, I know that when I least expect it, buyers and sellers will resurface. When they do, they typically do so all at once, making me think that they have been secretly meeting and mobilizing for that moment when they will be grabbing their phones or their computer "mouses" in one coordinated attack. Ours is a business of peaks and valleys. The key is to be ready when D-Day comes.
Today, I am getting ready. I have been keeping busy because I have not been as busy, and all I see is deferred maintenance. Now that I have time to look around, I am starting to notice the clutter. And I am a little overwhelmed. Suddenly, in my mind, everyone has a better Web site, my systems are inferior, my files are a mess, and my business plan is the "suxxor." Paranoia sets in and I am convinced my marketing plan is antiquated, my bookkeeping is the source of jokes at the annual tax preparers’ holiday party, and my technology became obsolete last Thursday when I was busy ordering a pizza for delivery. Motivated by fear, the fear that I am one bad business decision away from obscurity and forced retirement, I freak out and spring to action.
So, I have been spring cleaning, but my approach is not a methodical, one-room-at-a-time approach. My mind doesn’t work in a linear fashion. Rather, I start 17 things at once — random projects living in parallel universes — certain that through shear will order will someday be restored. I know this is wrong, but I am forging ahead. My home office has now eclipsed my junk pile on the Stack O’ Unfinished Business scale. Yet, I am committed to using my down time to remodel and repair all of those boring business fixtures I am convinced are broken or may be near the end of their serviceable lives.
Sometime during my business cleaning frenzy yesterday, I misplaced my cell phone. I went five hours before realizing that I was operating without my tiny life partner. Luckily I found it — in the garage next to the untidy files I had been rifling through. The ones seemingly shot from a cannon while wearing 3-D glasses. I missed six calls. And fortunately I am feeling a little better today, which helps me to put things in perspective. As long as I have a business, I will always have unfinished business. The nice man at the front door offering to rototill my carpets will have to wait. And as for my files, who says "A" comes before "M"? That’s just obsessing. I have work to do.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.