person drawing a line with a red pencil

While I was in my 20’s and in my second job out of college, I worked for a boss who became a mentor. He was strict yet kind and happily taught his employees, helping them grow both professionally and personally. Bob’s sudden death at 59 was a shock. His memorial service was attended by many friends, almost all of whom had been co-workers or employees.

Bob would tell his employees stories that taught a lesson. He would title the story so that next time he needed to refer to the story, he’d give the title and you’d know exactly what he meant. At Bob’s memorial, everyone laughed at the shared “Bobisms” we all knew.

When I worked for Bob, part of my job was writing computer programs using a financial program for our company. Sometimes it was very difficult to know where to start. While not with a story, Bob explained how to get started, “Draw a line.” This was the 1980’s and we used pen or pencil and paper to plan what we were going to do by writing it down. There was a format we followed which involved filling out a chart. Sometimes it seemed impossible to get started because you couldn’t figure out what to write in the chart. Bob’s direction to get you going was to “Draw a line” meaning to get started by getting something down on paper. You needed the chart first to fill in the squares and start figuring out the work. Bob explained when he drew the first line, he already felt he had accomplished something and it was much easier to get moving.

While I don’t often draw charts on paper today, I find Bob’s advice to still be useful. There are times I’m stuck. Whether it’s because I’ve got a lot to do and don’t know where to start or because I don’t really like what I have to do, sometimes getting unstuck is hard. Writing this has been on my list for a month – a MONTH! I had ideas about what to write, wrote them down, yet didn’t write on them. I’d think “I’ve got to write!” but didn’t. Why? What was holding me back? Was it that I didn’t want to do this any more? No. It really was that there were so many things clamoring for my attention that I didn’t give it to any of them. Hopefully I’m not the only person who has avoided work or decision making by playing solitaire on the computer “just once” or finding another way to waste time until there was no more time left in theday.

The problem with ignoring those things that need doing is that they wait. They don’t go away. Whether it’s dusting that piles up, Alzheimer’s Walk flyers to deliver, a guest room to organize, or an article to write, the items wait. And wait. And wait. And seeing them on the to do list daily, it feels like you are doing that item daily, yet it isn’t getting accomplished. You can almost feel the weight of these items on your shoulders.

So what can you do? Something. Anything. Today, no matter what, I wanted to write this article although once again, I changed my mind about the topic and my approach to it. So I decided to do something I could visibly see that I had accomplished, in essence, to “Draw a line”. I cleaned the stove. Yup! It doesn’t relate at all to writing, but it definitely needed doing and had already waited, patiently, for my attention. Stove clean, I did the breakfast dishes and cleaned off my desk. And then I was ready to write. The line had been drawn; I had accomplished something. It wasn’t easy. I still had to force myself to sit and write, but as you can see I did it.

So, what’s hanging over your head? What needs to get done that you are completely trying to ignore or avoid? Don’t forget that it is patiently waiting for you. Unfortunately. Pick one item on your list and do it today. “Draw a line.”


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