Organization is an indication of control
According to Daniel Gilbert, in his book, Stumbling on Happiness (Random House, NY, 2007) at the root of most stress is the feeling of being out of control. I’m sure you know the feeling if you have ever been stuck in traffic, or waiting in a long line or suddenly told that the unrealistic deadline on your project has suddenly become more unrealistic.
People have a natural inclination to control events and make things happen. Losing control makes them unhappy and stressed.
Here’s an example. In a nursing home, the elderly residents were given a houseplant. Half of them were told they were to control the care and feeding of the plant while the other half were told that someone on staff would look after the plant. Within 6 months, 30% of the residents in the low control group had died, compared with only 15% of those who were in control. (Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, Random House, 2007.)
Another study had student volunteers visit nursing home residents on a regular basis. Some residents were allowed to decide when the student was to come in and how long he or she stayed. The others were not given that option. The student just popped in. After 2 months, residents with control were happier, healthier, more active, and taking fewer medications than those in the low control group.
Gaining control can have a positive impact on one’s health and well-being. But when the researchers had finished their study and all visits stopped, there were more deaths among the high control group than the low control group, showing that losing control once you’ve had it can be worse than never having had control in the first place.
This could be related to disorganized people whose houses or offices are in a shambles and yet are happier than organized people whose lives are disrupted by sudden changes in environment, workload, and interruptions that move them into a disorganized state.
Those who don’t rush through the day in a panic, but pace themselves and work efficiently, actually survive longer according to Matthew Edlund, author of The Body Clock Advantage. (Adams Media, 2003.) These people usually have routines for going to bed and rising at the same times every day, exercise and eating. They control their work versus letting their work determine when they go home, go to bed or exercise.
Mental clutter is just as stressful as physical clutter. Writing things down and having a plan to get them done unclutters your mind, relieves anxiety, eliminates the fear of forgetting and makes you feel better.
Ken Blanchard in the book, The One Minute Manager Balances Life & Work, (HarperCollins, 2004) made the comment that we should never put our health at risk in order to gain more money. Otherwise, he claimed, in later years we’ll be spending even more money in an attempt to regain our health.
Other authors also have stated that losing control affects health and productivity. Stefan Klein, for instance, in his book The Secret Pulse of Time, said that stress originates in a surrender of control.
People who lose control of their time end up sacrificing exercise, regular medical checkups, leisure activities, relaxation, and healthy eating habits. Keeping well is easier and more time effective than getting well.
Healthy activities such as exercise, relaxation and leisure time should be scheduled in your planner if necessary, along with your priorities and major activities and events. If you don’t, the time in your planner may become filled with work-related activities and you may spiral out of control.