Wednesday, June 10, 2015

4 Signs That You're Overextended
As I sat down to work on a last Friday's blog post at close to noon on Friday (about 12 hours after it's usually posted), I decided it was safe to say I was feeling a tad overextended. Summer vacation had barely begun, yet everywhere I looked, someone or something beckoned.

I should've seen it coming. The signs were all there:

  • Decline in motivation, which I chalked up to laziness and/or the start-stop-start again nature of most days last week;
  • A growing feeling of panic as I surveyed my office, which had been trending toward neatness, but was now falling off the organization wagon;
  • The inability to select a task, focus on it and see it through to completion. I was great at both selecting and focusing on the wrong tasks (low priority, low yield), while the others piled up around me and eventually engulfed me; and
  • Rampant procrastination in everything from getting out of bed in the morning to even making a list, let alone tackling it.
In retrospect, all of the above had one thing in common: avoidance. And my inability to sit, settle and start was exacerbated by trying to flex my schedule around everyone else's.

It was time to take charge. To just. Start. Somewhere.
I threw a load of clothes in the washer and started with the little things that nagged at me and sapped my energy: the phone calls and appointments that needed to be taken care of. Since it was close to noon on a Friday, I met with limited success, but that was enough to get me started on one of the things I'd been avoiding all week.

Making a list. Two, actually.

The first was a favorite motivational tool: the backwards to-do list. The second was a list of things to
do on Monday when offices re-opened and I could take care of the appointments and phone calls that had yielded dead ends just hours before the weekend began (timing was never my strong suit).

From there, it got easier because, after all, getting started is always the hardest part. By just starting somewhere, I moved forward. Progress generated momentum, which led me to another baby step.

As an I need to see it person, one of my favorite little games to play with myself is "pick up one thing." When I'm overwhelmed, even the thought of clearing the piles amassing on the dining room table (and in other locations) makes me want to curl up and take a nap, but tackling it a little at a time by picking up one thing as I go by and putting it away -- well, that I can do. I rarely grab just one thing, but by giving myself permission to start small, the burden is lifted. Once again, all I needed was an entry point. From there, progress was in my sights. 

One of the tough things about being a writer is that my primary tools -- my mind and my creativity -- rent out space to other tenants. Even when I know I should be focusing on writing and editing, there are necessary mundane tasks that also require a chunk of that mental energy, whether I do them right away or not. Strangely enough, not doing them right away is often a bigger drain on my mental energy than simply gritting my teeth and getting started. The less mental energy I have, the less creative I feel, and the more likely I am to fall into traps like the bullet points above.

Photo: lisasolonynko via Morguefile
As long as we are members of society, we're never truly in control of our all our time. There will always be competing demands; chief among them is the clash between logic (do it now!) and emotion (I'd rather do this/someone else wants me to do that). And the sooner we come to terms with the inevitability of this clash, the less mental energy we'll waste fighting it. 

Easier said than done.

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