Casual Weeding

I don’t like to weed. The work is often hot and buggy, and though I have seen only two snakes in my 25 years on this property, one of those snakes was a freight train of a serpent, and not inclined to heed any suggestions from me. Then there’s poison ivy, ticks (I already have Lyme disease), and worms. I am deathly–irrationally–afraid of earth worms.

But there is no point planting flowers in this part of Maryland unless weeding will follow. So I weed. I never plan to weed, though. I make a vague observation as I’m walking out to the car in the morning. “Yikes, that burdock has developed ambitions in the direction of world domination! Somebody should do something about it.”

Coming home from work, I will nod to the burdock. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You are choking my pansies. Prepare to die.”

The next morning, I’ll yank a few leaves as I’m taking out the trash. When I get the mail, I wreak a little more destruction. I never put weeding on my to do list  (which is also a vague notion never written down), but by the end of the weekend, I’ve usually “gotten after” a few beds, one swipe or swat at a time.

This is how I deal best with the things that don’t give me joy but must be done. I come at them sideways, in little bites, and try never to put them at the beginning or end of the day in any quantity. Same with office tasks like payroll (hates me some payroll filings), invoicing (Baby Jeebus, spare me), and coding bank statements. (Insert profanity of your choosing here.)

Deadlines attach to these tasks–let the weeds go too long, and no flowerbed. Miss the payroll filings, and penalties and interest can be yours to pay. I don’t focus on that. I focus on five-minute-resets (housework), casual weeding (yardwork), and “just do one bank statement before lunch,” (office work).

And I get a heck of a lot done, on my time, when I’m in the mood. I’m convinced that this approach to working–on the worker’s terms, for the most part–is far more efficient than the boss’s to-do list, the scheduled meetings, and the time clock. Some organizations and tasks need all that. I am endlessly grateful to have found livelihoods that allow me a lot of worker autonomy.

I’m approaching a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), which is well suited to an artisan’s job. It’s also the way most of the world worked prior to the industrial revolution. As long as I make my deadlines, the rest is up to me. Not everybody will work well without external structure, but then, I don’t work well WITH externally imposed structure (a tendency called presenteeism. I’m there, but not hitting on all eight cylinders).

For a person like me, having a time clock, dress code, and SMART goals wrecks my productivity and creativity. For others, those strategies are the sina qua non of a productive day.

Where do you fall, or do you wear different hats for different roles? If you could change one thing about your jobs or responsibilities, what would it be? To one commenter, I’ll send a print copy of No Dukes Allowed (c’mon May 15!)

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25 comments on “Casual Weeding

  1. 1
    Teenie Marie says:

    I hate to weed, loath it in fact, but like you say, gotta do it for the flowers. Folding laundry–YUCK!–is another of my hated chores but I do it, though sometimes not in a timely fashion.

    Deadlines are part of my profession. You could think concerts are deadlines and, as you suggest, as long as my choir is prepared to do the actual concert on the actual day, ain’t nobody’s business but ours!

    There are things I’m under pressure to do and I do them, but often not as well as I would like. However, the stress of having to do something under pressure motivates me occasionally to do better than I could have imagined. Go figure!

    Looking forward to May 15 too…come on Duchesses!

    • 1.1

      I hated performing as a pianist, in part because I never learned the arc of getting a piece into peak condition. First you learn it, then you put it away. Then you dust it off and learn it more deeply. Then you put it away. Then you haul it out and get serious…
      That takes a lot of experience, and I never got the hang of it.
      With housework, I do better if the task has gotten to the, “Visibly obvious” stage. Going after every smudge on the counter or streak on the floor would drive me nuts. I get after those jobs when the result of doing the job makes big difference. I don’t recommend this approach to anybody else.

  2. 2
    Diane Sallans says:

    I’m not a gardener – my dream is for a low or no maintenance yard. I have lots of trimming to do, but keep putting it off until ‘a better time’ based on not having tasks that take precedent & decent weather.

    I admit to being a procrastinator – I have a whole list of those ‘one & done tasks’ which often get bumped by the never ending cycle of everyday life tasks involved in feeding & cleaning & paying bills. I love finishing a task that I most likely will never have to do again. I’m at the stage of downsizing (aka getting rid of stuff) and being more willing to let things go that I have held on to for a long time.

    • 2.1

      If I were out West, I’d probably be the first on my block to xeriscape, but where I live, you blink and your yard will, as the locals say, “go back to the mountain.” Might as well grow some pretty with all that horticultural potential.

  3. 3
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    I’ve always disliked rigid requirements that are only tangential to the job that must be done. That is, things like dress codes when you work in an office and rarely see anybody who doesn’t also work there or turning in outlines before the term paper is due. I don’t do outlines! Well, I did when they were required as part of my grade but it was counter-productive in my book. I prefer to be given a task and a deadline and then left alone to get it done. The thing I hated most when I was working was being micro-managed by people who knew less than I about the job I was supposed to do.
    Your “Casual Weeding” seems like a great way to go and I’m going to use it, too.

    • 3.1

      I think your experience is the norm: You hired me because I am well suited to the required tasks. Now back off and let me do them.
      I mostly had good bosses, but I much preferred being my OWN boss. The dress codes and time clocks and corporate blah-blah just sucked the life right out of me.

  4. 4
    CarolW says:

    I am retired. The greatest joy I have found in that state is being able to structure my days my own way. My “trick” for tasks I would just as soon “not” is to include in each day at least one task that isn’t daily – weeding, rearranging bookshelves, various levels of cleaning – as opposed to something like bed making. Also, I try to mentally frame them as “productive” rather than basic daily maintenance.

    • 4.1

      I will be working on how to set up my days so I get done what I want and need to do with the least nose-holding. Your strategy–just ease the task I’m not enthusiastic about between other joys–seems sensible. Casual mid-morning weeding, maybe?

  5. 5
    CarolW says:

    I am retired. The greatest joy I have found in that state is being able to structure my days my own way. My “trick” for tasks I would just as soon “not” is to include in each day at least one task that isn’t daily – weeding, rearranging bookshelves, various levels of cleaning – as opposed to something like bed making. I try to mentally frame them as “productive” rather than basic daily maintenance.

  6. 6
    Linda L. says:

    I think we all wear different hats and even faces according to specific situations and responsibilities. I am retired currently leading a charmed life. I do not like to cook, my husband does. How fantastic is that! If I could change on thing it would be cleaning the house, doing laundry and making beds. It’s just the 2 of us, but the cleaning laundry chore cuts into my quilting time and desire to do some sightseeing. Sometimes I wish having a neat, tidy and clean home wasn’t so ingrained in every fiber of my being.

    • 6.1

      But it is. I think most of us function better and more cheerfully if we have a tidy nest. I’m looking forward to doing more house-tending when I’m done lawyering. My mom was always so good at making a space feel comfortable and welcoming, but me… not so much. My house is cluttered an not very well organized. Time to weed the living room!

  7. 7
    Pam says:

    I would be all alone in a quiet environment. What I do is difficult with foot traffic going by and multiple conversations around me. I literally can’t hear myself think.

    • 7.1

      Pam, I am one of the most rabid opponents of the open plan office. The studies prove that while it might appease a hyper-controlling manager’s need to invade everybody’s privacy all day long, it also decreases morale and productivity, increases turnover and sick leave. It’s a bloody stupid idea, in other words, but it saves on HVAC and build out costs, while dismempowering employees, so that’s all that matters.
      I hope you get to some quieter space soon.

  8. 8
    Elaine says:

    Now that I work as a freelancer, I’m not sure how I ever adhered to the norms of the workplace! It’s such a treat to be able to schedule my day and my tasks according to my whims — and my deadlines, of course. I love knowing that I can write a feature story at midnight, not from 9 to 5, as long as it gets to my client on time. Flexibility R Us and I love it!

    • 8.1

      The industrial revolution has done a great job at obscuring how unnatural regimented work is, and how soul-draining. Prior to the invention of factory jobs, we ALL worked when the light lasted, doing what was reasonable for the day and the market, unless we were enslaved or imprisoned. I hope that one of the impacts of tech is to get back to an artisan-model of work for as many people as possible. I think the results will be better craftsmanship and greater happiness.

  9. 9
    Beth Lisk says:

    As a pharmacy tech, my work day flow is determined by the hours I am assigned to work (when my shift is over, I’m done) and by the needs of the patients, aling with a certain amount of “these tasks need to be done each day” that get divided between the staff.

    As my mom/homemaker self, I get to decide my schedule to a great extent, and I operate a lot like you do. Having my lists of things to do and a paper calendar on the wall help me keep track of things. It feels good to look at all the things I get crossed off my lists!

    • 9.1

      A working mom is probably the most productive creature on the planet, of necessity. I used to say, “If I can get enough sleep, I can do anything…” Now, I need more sleep, and the phrase is more, “If I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t do anything.”
      Hang in there!

  10. 10
    Amy Ikari says:

    Happy Sunday! Being a caregiver for my mother is a 24/7 job and much more challenging then when I worked 70 to 80 hours in an office. Computers do not argue or wake you up at all hours of the night. But I am happy to be able to read, write letters, cook and exercise as the schedule permits. It is not easy but I am thankful for this time with my mother. I love your books and look forward to them. Since I am on a tight budget I plan to buy books when I have a gift card or there is a great sale. Have checked library sales or used book stores, but because you are a keeper I rarely find any books. At times I miss the income but I hope that this family time is looked as time well spent. Have a blessed week! ❤️❤️❤️✉️

    • 10.1

      Elder care is so challenging. When my sister and I toured retirement homes a few years ago, the nun in charge told us, “Keep your folks in their own house as long as you can. More and more people are living to be 100, and they might be here much longer than you think possible.”
      Dad only outlived Mom by about eighteen months, but they were a long, difficult eighteen months for everybody.
      Hats off to you, Amy, and I hope there’s a team in place to get you frequent and much-deserved breaks. Mom needs the variety, and you need the rest.

  11. 11
    Pemcat says:

    After maternity leave I have joined a different company – one who have been extraordinarily flexible with me. My contract is 20 hours a week and I work mornings (3 of them from home) to minimise the length of time little one is at nursery (my other half drops him off around 845, I start early and pick him up around 1215).

    This is exactly what I asked for, yet I occasionally find myself missing the days of getting stuck into a problem and staying at my desk until midnight to wrestle with it (I work in a technical field). Then I arrive at nursery and my son runs to greet me, and I don’t regret the way we’ve structured things.

    • 11.1

      How to weave parenting into the career arc is a particularly difficult question for women, and one that usually ends up costing us in old age. Gestation, birth, and lactation take a toll on our health (osteoporosis, geriatric incontinence). Working part-time for the baby years takes a huge toll on our social security saving, and costs us seniority and visibility in terms of promotions, meaning we’re earning less as we hit the management ladder years. Gender wage inequality usually means it’s ridiculous to take Dad out of the workforce to parent when for the same hours away from home, Mom would earn so much less and have less likelihood of promotion anyway. Then too, Mom at least gets a few weeks off in most states, so she has a chance to acquire some parenting chops that Dad has to wedge into his work day.
      I hate this. One of my Biggest Rants of The Year will be my Father’s Day post, wherein, I will list the horrors that result when Dad is distanced from his children, which is exactly what we’ve set him up to do.
      So I commend you for keeping your hand in at work, finding a way to minimize the logistical effort you have make to do your job, including Dad in the child-management details, and being honest about what frustration it can be to put the work passion into a time-clock box to accommodate the parenting agenda.
      All I can tell you is, it’s better now for working moms–and dads–than it was, but we still have a long way to go.

  12. 12
    Anne Egger says:

    I guess it depends on the task. If I am planning a trip with my girlfriends, I am the first to get everything done, if it is my tax information, I will wait until my husband fusses at me.

  13. 13

    I am so in a nice place I am retired and I can please myself most of the time.I can be enthusiastic about things or I can be just plain switched off.I can be somewhere in the middle floating about doing this and that.I can select most of my Times layout to suit and this to me is still a luxury I did not have with my work.I do feel guilty a little(perhaps a few seconds)lots of people around me are still on the work trail and trying to keep it all together.Their time will come.My hats are still hanging up on the hat stand and ready if required,I may be in a nice place but I can still come out for a short spell and help.I am not an island just a peninsula.I like your style of weeding grace it sounds right up my street.

  14. 14
    Marianne says:

    I like to garden. I hate heat & bugs. We live in a subdivision, however…

    My life is semi-structured. I wash beds Monday, clothes on Thursday, housekeeper comes Friday afternoon to wash the floors, church is Sunday. Breakfast is at 8:30, lunch is at noon; supper between 6 and 7. I would forget otherwise. My family keeps me eating, bathing, dressing, occasionally leaving the house.

    My “work” is going down rabbit holes, some of which pay well, many not at all. I’m on my own clock with them, mostly.