A strange relationship exists between energy and order. Many of us have messy desks, kitchen tables, or garages. Yet almost all of us know that a clean living or working space reduces stress, boosts energy, and gives us a strange sense of well being. Why is that?
We were made this way. In Genesis, we see that the act of creation is not merely ex nihilo (out of nothing) but also ex inordinatio (out of disorder). God speaks and there is light; then he separates the light from the darkness. The same pattern holds throughout the creation narrative; God separates and places in proper relationship every element of creation. As the culmination of this creation, humanity is placed in the Garden of Eden to “subdue” it, to “cultivate and keep it” (NASB). Anyone who has tilled a patch of fertile ground knows that much of the work is simply keeping order. We are creatures that thrive on order.
The study of the human behavior bears this out. Some studies (here too, but not all) show that having an organized space results in a sense of peace and sets the stage for greater productivity. Not only do we thrive in the midst of order, but the act of bringing order can boost our energy. Strangely enough, taking even a few minutes to organize our workspace can often result in a kind of second wind in the midst of an otherwise challenging day.
A few guidelines for how this works
Pick something you can finish in 10 minutes or less. This will keep the task from turning into a slog. It will also give you a “quick win”; don’t underestimate the psychological value of small victories. Do the dishes, pick one manageable room of the house and declutter it, tame the disorder on your desk, clean the trash and clutter out of your car. Keep the task light and manageable. This is not the time for hard decisions about what to keep or throw away, processing to inbox zero, or prioritizing next actions.
Let your mind loose while working: Half of the energy boost we gain comes from letting our mind wander a little while our bodies focus on a routine task. If we spend most of our day exerting our will in decision making, staying focused on getting difficult tasks done, or giving our energy to demanding people, taking some time on a task that demands little from us can be a blessing. This is one small way we can refill our reservoir of mental energy in the midst of our day.
Let the task be an offering to God. We are made for an ordered life, and we are made to bring order to our world. God’s care and providence extends to even the simple things (especially the simple things!). Begin the task you’ve chosen with thanksgiving, receiving God’s gracious love for you in the moment. Whatever your cares are, lay them at his feet for this span of time. Observe your emotions and what is happening in your heart and in your body. If you feel stress or concern, strong emotions, or fatigue—simply observe these and permit yourself to feel them, knowing God is with you. Again, this is not necessarily a time for fervent prayer (though if you are led that way, then follow his lead!). Rather, it is a moment for laying aside burdens and remembering God’s gracious presence with us.
In what ways has bringing order to your world energized you?