I’ve told you before that I’m maintenance-challenged. But I never told you that every once in awhile, I’ve completely bypassed effectiveness in a quest for “productivity”.

I say this because to set yourself a task and then to continuously and unnecessarily raise the bar practically guarantees eventual failure. But every now and again, I “wake up” and find myself doing it anyway.

Can you relate at all?

Here’s just one example. (Although Happy Wren Gardens is about, um, gardening, I’m going to cheat a little here. I’m going to use the most extreme example I can come up with from my own life, which happens to be cleaning. But rest assured, the principle translates.)

Setting the Bar Ridiculously High

One year, I set myself a housekeeping schedule. A gold-standard housekeeping schedule, I might add.

Every Monday, I deep-cleaned the bathrooms. Tuesday was the kitchen. Wednesday was the family room, and so on.

My house had never been cleaner.

But rather than simply enjoying that (for what it was worth), I quickly decided that I really needed to up the ante.

With a little searching online, I found step-by-step cleaning instructions that would do any white-gloved inspector proud.

And then I started timing myself. Because once I had a benchmark, the obvious next step was to see if I could do it faster, right?

And when there was no going faster without lowering quality, I started tinkering with my calendar.

The bathrooms, I decided, should be cleaned at 1pm precisely (because everyone in their right mind knows that simply saying “Monday” cannot possibly be sufficient). Which, of course, meant that “success” was tarnished if I began at 1:07.

See what I mean about bypassing effectiveness?

By then, success (in this context) was no longer a squeaky-clean bathroom. Nope, success was all tied up in details that really didn’t matter one little bit in the big picture.

And if you predicted that the pie-in-the-sky standards (how did I even come up with some of them?!) were followed by a crash back down to earth, you would be right about that.

The happy news is that one day, I woke up. My house isn’t going to win any awards for “most clean” (if there even are any!). On the other hand, it’s not going to horrify anyone, either. It’s simply clean enough. Clean enough not to drive me crazy in either direction. 😉

The Takeaway

Circling back around to the main topic of this blog, we can do the same thing with our gardens. It’s entirely possible to react to “maintenance-challenged” with an extreme. Buckling down to an unsustainable to-do list. Or throwing your hands up in despair and giving up.

But if we do either, we’re in danger of sucking all the joy and pleasure right out of our gardens. And if we do that, well, you end up having to ask . . . why have them at all?

Keeping the ultimate objective simple and in clear focus helps.

We can learn a lot from our wild friends on this subject.

Let’s take a bee as an example. A bee works hard, but she doesn’t complicate things unnecessarily.

She doesn’t say, “Okay, today is Monday, so I’m only going to visit white flowers. Oh, and they have to be daisy-shaped or they don’t count. And I can only count it toward my pollen quota if I get started by 8am sharp. Now, let me see – looking ahead, tomorrow is pink day. And since it’s the second Tuesday in the month, it has to be flowers that are pink and in the rose family.”

No, we’re the only ones who do that.

Sometimes, we accomplish a lot more – in our gardens, in our lives – when we simplify our focus.

Have you ever found yourself sidetracked from your intended purpose? What helped you get back on track?