Shortcuts Don’t Work

This morning I sat in front of my sewing machine, with my needle and thread box on my lap, and a dismaying pile of school uniform items on the table next to me. And I chided myself for being lazy. For being short sighted. For not listening to my gut. For looking for the shortcut.

You see at the beginning of this year my oldest son started Grade 1, and with that came a startling amount of uniform and other school accessories. It was exciting, the mark of a new season for him and he looked so handsome in his uniform, and we were so proud. Until I realised everything had to be labeled.

And I looked at the piles of school paraphernalia. And I looked at the beautiful, embroidered tags (with the blue racing car), that I had lovingly hand sewn on to his wonderfully simple pre-school uniform of shorts and t-shirt and my fingers began to ache. I could almost feel the sharp prick of the needle as it repeatedly met with my finger. And an idea came to me. Iron-on. I recalled the countless conversations of other mums in previous years of the January rush, ordering their iron-on labels and I thought to myself – yes, I can do that!

Now the responsible and disciplined (yes, I know, I’m a little OCD) part of me chimed in at this point and told me; “you know that sewing it on is a better option. It won’t fall off or rub off. It’s harder upfront, but it’ll be worth it in the end; remember what your Nanna always used to say; “a stitch in time saves nine.” But I was tired, and I wanted to go and slouch on the couch and read my book (not really, I wanted to go and watch people falling off trampolines on ‘Ridiculousness’.) But mostly, I just really wanted to be able to tick this job off my to-do-list.

So I ordered some labels. They were plain and black and had no fancy racing car picture, but I knew that didn’t matter – it was the practicality and the ease of the item, not the design that was important – so I pulled out the ironing board and the iron and I got to work. Within half an hour everything was labeled and put away in its correct place and I gave myself a pat on the back for a job well done.

Fast forward two months and the first of the labels starts to peel off. A week later it’s gone completely. So I took out a Sharpie and I scrawled, in my Doctor inspired handwriting, my son’s name on the washing label. A few weeks later, the same story. And repeat until most of the labels had one by one fallen off.

And as I sat cross-eyed trying to thread my needle I realised that my Nanna had been right, and that I should have listened to my gut. All the time I had spent on my short-cut option had been a waste. It had seemed like a time and energy saver, but in actual fact it had doubled my use of both these resources as I had to do the job twice.

Sometimes we so desperately want to make a change in an area of our lives; at work, at home, with our children, with our health or fitness, that we look for a shortcut to get the results we want. But most of the time, these results don’t last. In order to see real, long-lasting change you need to make sure that the ‘new’ is securely sewn in to your life. The new way of thinking or doing things needs to be deeply integrated so that it can’t simply fall off during the wear and tear of your daily routine.

And it takes time and energy, upfront. And sometimes it seems like you’ll never get through the piles of stuff you need to organise. But you will. You’ll get there. And once you’ve done the hard work you won’t have to do it again. You’ll be able to go and slouch on the couch.