The oddest things stick in one’s mind—for decades. As a young navy ensign whose uniforms had hardly been through the washer enough times to knock the new off, I was assigned to take classes on time management. The instructor, a nerdy LT, began to present. All I could think of was how his hair looked too perfect because every hair was locked in place with cream or gel, and how he epitomized the total antithesis of being spontaneous.
This portended to be a dull class, and I would soon lose interest in observing his demeanor and grooming. This is all tacky, but my wife tells me all the time that bored students find the oddest things to look at, so she gives me a grooming check, even after 42 years of marriage. I’m a slow learner because I assume students will be listening to my point, when she assures me that they will notice wiry hairs coming out of my ears or that my belt buckle is off-center from my zipper.
Anyway—to my point. The LT introduced a segment called “The Swiss Cheese Method.” I thought scornfully, “Right, this oughta be good,” and my mind zoomed to images of Swiss cheese I remembered eating and playing with, for you see, the pleasure of Swiss growing up included pulling it apart and trying to get unusual shapes made possible by the random holes.
The instructor pointed out how large and burdensome tasks are easily relegated to the procrastination bin because their tedious and lengthy aspects tire us out before we start. Therefore, we don’t start. Then the task’s weight hangs over the consciousness with ever increasing dread, followed by scenarios of making resolutions, followed by guilt, followed by paralysis, followed by more and greater loathing of the task and self.
The instructor explained how the Swiss cheese method means getting a start, even if just a few minutes to punch that first hole in the task. Next time, another hole can be punched, and eventually the task is a Swiss cheese—and then finally no cheese because it’s all holes, which is a good thing: you’re done.
Countless times, I’ve mustered up the will to the Swiss cheese method, thanks to the LT even though he struck me at first as someone who would cross my horizon one time, briefly, and then disappear forever out of mind. Yet he was the one to catch a mouse with a piece of Swiss cheese and make a memory going back to 1971.
Curious, I Googled “Swiss Cheese Method.” Yes—it’s there. You can pick your link on it, tracing it back to Alan Lakein’s book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. I’ve never remembered all these years his name or even that there was such a book, no insult intended. It’s the LT I remember, with his Swiss cheese.