Apr 09 2008
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(breadcrumbs are unavailable)
Apr 09 2008
It seems like pretty much everyone has some sort of master plan out right now on how to be more productive. You’ve got Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done, Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Leo Babauta’s Zen to Done, the inimitable Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life…. You get the idea.
Back in my turbo-propelled 20’s, I used to snap up these manuals in an effort to glean any new tidbits that could help me work smarter and more efficiently. In my 30’s, I started to calm down quite a bit about the whole thing. While I still think there’s something to be said for spending one’s life energy wisely, I’m not necessarily sure churning out the most amount of work in the least amount of time is really the same thing. In the race of life, I’ve gone from being a supercharged hare to a rather especially pokey and asthmatic tortoise. (I mean, what about stopping to check out that daffodil over there…)
For the most part, I’ve been content with these changes. But last spring and summer, while I going through the worst of my divorce proceedings, I didn’t need to fine-tune my productivity. I needed help establishing I even had a pulse. I was in the middle of a pretty serious bout of depression.
For a couple of months I couldn’t seem to manage anything more than schlepping my butt between my bed and my couch—with occasional interim stops to scrounge for something psuedo-edible in the kitchen, a semi-weekly shower, or to get lectured by my mail lady for letting things pile up in my mailbox again. (That was worth getting off the couch for. If I didn’t, it meant I’d eventually have to drive to the Post Office to pick up the latest batch of forms my lawyer needed me to sign. And driving two miles was unthinkable.)
After a couple of months of this, I managed to muster enough energy to be pretty disgusted with myself. I have a long, LONG list of character faults but rolling-over and playing dead when things get rough is normally not one of them. So I started experimenting with strategies to get my butt off the couch and start getting things done again.
After a lot of trial and error I came up with an idiot simple formula that continues to work for me… Every day I have to do ONE thing I really, really DON’T WANT TO DO. The “DON’T WANT TO DO” item has to be something important that’s going to have a significant impact on my life for the good. Once that’s done, if I really don’t feel like being productive and if the world is not going to positively end if I don’t do something else, I’m allowed to revert to being a lump on the sofa.*
And there were definitely days when I did just that—my one items and then reversion to lump-dom. But those singular items started to add up. Plus, I got pretty good at doing the DON’T WANT TO DO item first thing in the morning because I knew I got to goof-off without guilt after that was done.
More often than not, I discovered that whatever image I’d concocted in my mind of completing the dreaded task was a lot worse than the reality of doing whatever it was I’d been avoiding. And, scratching significant things I’d been off my “To Do” list frequently gave me a boost of energy and self-confidence that helped me start ticking less high-stakes things off the list, as well. Slowly, day by day, I started to get my life back on track. I’m still using the system currently.
Just in case you’re curious, here’s some examples of recent items I’ve completed from my DON’T WANT TO DO list:
Anyway, you get the idea.
In summary, I wanted to share my not-so-profound formula for productivity. If there’s someone else out there who’s struggling to get things done and who would be completely overwhelmed with one of the regular productivity books, I suggest giving my version a try for a couple of days and see what you think. And, if you do, let me know how it turns out. Inquiring, slow-moving tortoises wanna know.
Thankfully, I don’t have to be. Between proceeds from the sale of a house and my divorce proceedings, I’m fortunate enough not to be in those circumstances… at least not yet. I have some breathing room on how I spend my days and you better believe I’m profoundly grateful for that.
If your life circumstances are far more difficult than mine and you’ve been handling them with grace, it is my firm belief that you will be the first in line to be born in your next life as an exceptionally well-loved and pampered house cat. I’m the keeper of one of those. Trust me—it’s not a bad gig if you can get it.