Tuesday, March 21, 2017

CLEAN UP AS YOU GO

Clean up as you go is a strategy I learned many years ago from my extremely neat & tidy next-door neighbor. Initially it pertained to yard work, but since then, I've applied it to many types of tasks and projects. My problem is that although I tend to begin projects with much exuberance and expectation, at some arbitrary point while mid-task, a switch is flipped and all motivation, desire, interest and energy to continue or complete whatever is it that I'm doing simply disappears. I know when it's happened because the only thing I hear in my head is:

D O N E.

I don't necessarily get a warning of this impending shift. I don't know why or when it will happen and I don't know who or what is doing it.  I only know that when the switch goes from 'ON' to 'OFF', I can't do the thing for one more minute. That's it. Just. Done. The end. 


The problem with this, aside from a persistent sense that I'm playing some sort of warped game of Russian roulette with my own free will and energy, is that it leaves messes and unfinished jobs which often require additional time and work later on not only to clean up the messes but to figure out where I was in the process. And sometimes, mess begets more mess. Sometimes, stuff gets ruined or lost. In practical terms, it looks like this: I go outside feeling motivated and decide to trim the hedges. I'm very focused, committed, motivated and I cut LOTS of bushes and branches. I put them in piles, with good and pure intentions of picking up the piles and putting them in yard bags when I'm done trimming.  (You see where this is going, right?) After the switch has been flipped, it’s entirely possible for the piles, bags and possibly even the clippers, rake and garden gloves to end up exactly where I left them for days, weeks or longer. Either I never regain enough motivation to complete the task or I don't even remember - out of sight, out of mind. Evidence of this uncompleted project might not come into my sight of vision or mind until the following spring, after the snow has melted. (Yeah, neighbors love this.)

Now, when I trim hedges or do any job that involves making a mess as part of the task, I clean up as I go. (most of the time) If someone were observing me it could appear that I'm not being very efficient with my time, or that perhaps I have a touch of OCD. However, the relatively small amount of extra time this takes pays BIG dividends when your brain wiring short circuits and you are - d-o-n-e. It's also helpful if you are interrupted mid-task for reasons outside of your own self, such as the needs of small children or pets, unexpected weather, or drop-in company.

If you’ve never used this strategy before and decide to give it a try, let me know if it helps! 






Friday, January 27, 2017

ON CONQUERING PROCRASTINATION

When at all possible, work with your unique brain wiring, or biology. There are so many strategies, programs, and theories that profess to be THE answer to 'finally' conquering procrastination. However, the real best strategies are the ones that actually work for you. Period. There isn't one correct answer. 

The strategies that do work for you are often those you create on your own by continuing to tweak, adjust, modify and 'enhance'. You can only accomplish this through trial and error, mixed with a generous portion of creativity. And, you must be willing to experiment and fail. This is not only okay; it's a necessary and crucial part of the process.  The more you know about what does not work for you, and why, the closer you get to figuring out what does work.  

If a strategy dictates that THE sure fire way to overcome procrastination is by getting up at 5 am every day and working on what you need to accomplish before you even have your morning coffee, notice how it resonates for you. If you are so not a morning person or the thought of even uttering a simple sentence to someone before your first cup of coffee makes you twitchy, this method is unlikely to work for you. Do you know when your peak performance times are? If so, design your strategy around those times. 

When you hear JUST DO IT,  if you want to roll your eyes, growl and mumble expletives under your breath (or shout them) at the person who offered you this oh so useful tip, pay attention to that feeling. If this actually worked well for most people, there would not still be so many folks in serious pain from the high price they pay for chronic procrastination, which is compounded by their negative self-judgment since these 'simple' strategies don't work for them.  Also, if it does work for you with some things and not others, don't continue to try to use it for everything.  There is no universal best way and since we don't typically have the same reason for putting off each task, it stands to reason that we may need to apply various methods. 

If you know you work best in 15-minute spurts, do that! If you need to play oddly loud baroque music or Gregorian chants to get the dishes done or the laundry folded, or if it helps your creative flow, DO IT! If you need to dance while you vacuum or prepare for a meeting, then do that. If going to a coffee shop or the beach or the car wash helps you to focus to problem solve or get your thoughts together to make a plan . . . (you know what comes next) DO IT!

What works for you IS what works for you.  Be creative, keep practicing, keep failing, and keep starting again. Your brain is neuroplastic, so exercise it.  Lather, rinse and repeat, repeat, repeat. Practice makes progress. 



Monday, January 9, 2017

Rock Your Bottom?

A gradual sinking can prevent immediate awareness of having hit bottom. One day, you look  up and wonder how you got there. Are you even at the bottom? What does bottom look like? Of course it's relative, and in my opinion, bottom is simply as far as you will allow yourself to go before you do whatever is needed start to move from where you are.


As in every area of your life, comparisons are rarely motivational. As Teddy Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Just as you define success for yourself, you are entitled, and perhaps even mandated, to determine what failure means. Does hitting the proverbial rock bottom mean you're a failure? Of course not! YOU are not a failure! However, you may have failed in one or more endeavor or area of your life. And that's ok - more than ok, even. Own it. Feel it. Deconstruct it. Embrace it. LEARN from it. Find all of the lessons this experience offers, and then use them to start over, try again, try differently or completely change the plan and even the goal.

Sometimes, delusion and denial can serve us for a time; often, we need it to keep us safe and functioning.  At some point, though, it just keeps us stuck.  And when we feel paralyzed or stuck and know we've been hiding (either from others or from ourselves) it's likely time to look within to see if there is something(s) we are resisting or at least failing to acknowledge. Since what we resist persists, and also robs us of precious energy, the first and most important action is to truly acknowledge that we have, in fact, been resisting, denying, ignoring or otherwise not dealing with what we know is so. There is simply no real movement before we take this step. Even if doing this feels really icky, painful, uncomfortable and heavy, it will weigh much less than denying its existence and carrying it around, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What is that it? Whatever IT is for you.  We will all have more than one it throughout our lives. It will change and/or recur. And I submit that we cannot actually hit bottom until we wake up and own whatever it is we've been squashing down because IT has been squashing us down too. 

Your own hitting bottom need not necessarily involve drugs or alcohol, near-death, serious injury, hospitalization, incarceration, or homelessness, but sometimes it is that stark. It doesn't have to be.  Bottom for you may just be the day you look up and say, "How the hell did I get here and who is this person who looks like me but isn't?"  If you do find yourself in that place, after you go through whatever personal process is needed, then it's time to celebrate, because if you've determined that you've "hit rock bottom", there is only one way to go from there!  Perhaps you could put on some music and rock YOUR bottom! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR SUMMER

I was in my local farm market last week.  It was a beautiful day in July, a respite from the 93 degrees and high humidity of the previous few days.  The colors were vibrant, the sky bright blue, clouds light and wispy, and there was a slight breeze. However, most of the plants were gone, many of the tables were empty and the employees were rearranging them. 

My heart sank a little bit; I knew what this meant. They were getting ready to receive 'the mums'. I know it's somewhat past the time when people put in the their gardens, but it's MID-SUMMER and still July!  This is the time when people generally slow down, take it easy, go on vacation to the beach, spend time with family and friends and create and enjoy the little moments.  It's way too soon for MUMS! 

MUMS = Autumn & Back-to-school! 

I certainly didn't dwell on it, but it did dampen the moment, or more accurately, took me OUT of the moment. When I realized later on that it was still sort of lurking, (albeit quietly) in the back of my mind, I knew I had to make a choice to stay present to the here and now.  I do actually love autumn, and have nothing against mums, but I want to relish the summer while it's here.  When autumn comes, I will enjoy that as well, despite the knowledge of what season follows autumn. :-& 

I don’t know about you, but I’m very grateful for any reminder to just breathe, be present and to simply notice and appreciate the little things in life. When you think about it, what else is there? And, being present to what is as much as we can is not mutually exclusive with having hope and vision for the future or planning as necessary. The problem is that when we spend much more time in the past and the future than in the present, we aren't truly experiencing our lives.  On the flip side, having a dependence on staying in the moment to avoid dealing with the icky stuff in our lives also creates problems.  Like everything else, it's about finding the right balance. 

If you need a bit of evidence about the benefits and power of staying present, try this little exercise: 

Recall a few specific times in your life when you felt pure joy.  Just think of moments in time. They can be recently,  long ago or anywhere in-between. I predict that you'll find they were often, if not always, when you were completely present and aware right in that moment.