I’ve got a big week ahead of me. I’ve got a ton of work on my plate, most of it broken down into little bits and pieces that I can take, one at a time, and really make some good progress with.
I just need to make sure I do what I plan to do.
One of the recurring issues I have has to do with lack of initiative. I have a full life with lots of responsibilities, and I perform at a pretty decent level, as far as anyone else is concerned. Compared to most people, I’m doing okay. But what nobody knows is that I struggle intensely with getting anything at all done. My attention tends to wander and I get caught up in lots of side projects that go nowhere (and are actually more for the sake of soothing my agitation than actually accomplishing anything). I also have a heck of a time just initiating the things I have on my docket for the day.
For some reason, I just can’t get started.
After grappling with this mightily for the past 5-1/2 years (in particular since my fall in 2004), I’ve found a few tricks to get myself going.
- While I’m thinking about what I need to do, I focus on my breath and take several deep breaths to get myself to relax. This is to keep me from spinning off into all sorts of other sidelines. A lot of times, when I start to get pumped up about something I need to do, I get so pumped up, I end up veering off into other directions and I don’t get started on what I’m supposed to be doing. Relaxing with some deep breathing helps take the edge off my agitation which tends to drive me way “off the reservation” and keeps me from focusing on what I’m supposed to be doing.
- I also make sure the things I’m supposed to be doing are out on the desk beside me. I try to clear away all other distractions and input, and only have the stuff I’m supposed to be doing, right on hand. This is a very difficult thing for me to do, because my work space tends to be very… abundant. At the very least, I make a point of having my daily activities list in plain view, where I can check it regularly.
- I turn off my email for the duration of my task. There’s nothing like a blip of an incoming message to distract me… for hours, sometimes. People sometimes get angry that I don’t answer them right away, but they’ll have to wait. If they aren’t properly managing their time, and they’re in a rush over some crisis that could have been avoided with proper planning, it’s not my battle to fight. I have to take care of my own work… first.
- I limit the amount of time I plan to work on my tasks. This makes them less daunting and it also helps me schedule breaks at needed intervals. If I pick out something to do and “give” myself two hours to do it, the chances me starting it are much less than if I allot myself 30 minutes to it… and then spend the full two hours getting something done. Limiting the amount of time automatically gets me into “do it now” mode, which is helpful.
- I make a point of taking breaks. I do love my work (most of the time), but I can so caught up in what I’m doing that I wear myself out, so I need to limit the time I spend focusing on my work. Fatigue, even if it’s because of an activity I really enjoy, is still fatigue. And the more tuckered out I am, the less well my brain works. So, I stop myself — sometimes in mid-task — and just walk away. This is something relatively new for me and it doesn’t come naturally after a lifetime of being 200% immersed in my work for hours up on hours at a time, but I’m learning.
- I do try to “let myself off the leash” at regular intervals during the day. I’ll go for a walk outside. Or I’ll do a little reading about something that interests me. The challenge with doing this, is keeping myself in check and being able to come back to my work later. The point is to refresh myself and take a break… not fatigue myself even more by over-doing the walk outside or the time spent reading up on the central nervous system.
- Last but not least, I make a point of reminding myself about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. If I don’t have a clear sense that what I’m doing is going to help me get where I’m going in life, all my motivation dissipates and evaporates. And that’s no good. But if I can keep my life goals in mind, and stay clear on my priorities and the things I want to accomplish in life, that goes a long way towards keeping me on track.
As I said, a lot of this does not come naturally to me, or it’s a real departure from how I’ve always done things. But I’m learning how to do it, and when it works well, it really works well. I’m actually able to get started… and get things done.
Speaking of keeping on track, it’s time to move on to my next activity.