I was looking at my calendar today and it occurred to me that there are some tasks I assign myself that I really don’t want to do. You could call it simple procrastination, but I began to wonder why we all sometimes willingly take on projects that really don’t thrill us; consequently, we end up procrastinating or simply defaulting on the task. I’ve come up with five reasons I believe that I (and probably you) do this and some ways to overcome these obstacles to personal productivity and fulfillment.
- The problem: Feelings of inadequacy. This may be especially common if it’s a task that requires us to stretch our abilities. We worry that we’ll fail or look like fools. We’re not sure we have the skills or the smarts to successfully complete the task.
The solution: We can take several steps to overcome these unjustified feelings of inadequacy. First, review past successes and confirm your ability to perform at the required level. Second, acquire whatever tools or skills we need to complete the task. Third, break the task down into smaller steps and tackle them one by one.
- The problem: Lack of interest. We don’t want to do it and can’t figure out why we ever thought we wanted to do it.
The solution: Decide if the task is important enough that it should be completed. If it’s not, take if off the to-do list and never think about it again. If it does have some value consider these options: 1) delegate it to someone else; 2) hire a sub-contractor; 3) find a way to automate the task so you have to deal with it less often; 4) barter with someone—you take on one of her tasks and she takes on one of yours.
- The problem: Misplaced priorities. We know we need to do the task; we know the project is important; we want to complete it. However, we keep finding other things that siphon away our fixed hours in a day, and the task just sits there on our to-do list staring up at us waiting for us to get it done.
The solution: Setting milestones works wonders for keeping your priorities on track; give yourself deadlines and work toward them on a daily basis. I find that setting timers on my phone to remind me when it’s time to work on particular tasks is helpful, but you can use any method that keeps you focused on what’s important at that moment.
- The problem: Unrealistic expectations. Despite my love of the Alicia Keys song “Superwoman,” that fact is I can only do so many jobs in a day. It’s so tempting to look at our calendars and start scheduling ourselves from morning to night with all kinds of interesting activities. And then it’s too bad we end up procrastinating and making excuses when we can’t meet all those obligations.
The solution: Schedule the mundane first. Yep, I said it. Schedule the cooking, the cleaning, the bathing, the dog walking, the date night, the dinner hour, and every other common, but oh-so important activity first. Once we have a grip on how much “real” time we have for all those other interesting tasks we’ll be less likely to jam them into our calendars only to put them off when we’re overwhelmed.
- The problem: Saying yes when we should say no. This issue is last, but it could be first because I believe it is often the root cause of all four preceding problems: 1) We feel inadequate because we say yes when we know we aren’t really up to the task. 2) We lack interest because we say yes out of politeness instead of interest. 3) We get our priorities out of whack by by saying yes to Angry Birds instead of working on that project. 4) And we set unrealistic expectations when we say yes to every promising activity that crosses our paths.
The solution: It’s a simple solution that can be maddeningly difficult to implement; say NO. I’m learning to love those two letters strung together in such a simple, single-syllable utterance. NO. The thing with NO is that it need not be followed by an explanation of why we aren’t the right person or not interested, why it’s not a priority or doesn’t fit into our schedule. Of course, given the scarcity of NOs many people may look surprised and expect an explanation. My favorite reply is simply, “Not at this time.” Who knows? Things could change but right now the answer is NO.
Next time you look at your calendar or to-do list and cringe at some of those items you keep putting off, think about these five reasons why you might feel that way and then take steps to defeat the problems keeping you from excelling at the things your were designed to do.
As a cat lover, a writer, and a Christian thinker, I’m taking this poem as my anthem:
I and Pangur Ban, my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at;
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will;
He, too, plies his simple skill.
‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our task how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
Into the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den.
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine, and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade ;
I get wisdom day and night,
Turning Darkness into light.’
This translation is by Robin Flowers in “The Irish Tradition” Oxford 1947
In the wake of recent incidences of mass shootings, some folks are wondering how to reduce gun violence, mainly by means of tighter gun controls. Personally, I think guns are not even the beginning of the problem. Guns are inanimate objects, just like knives, ropes, clubs or any other item used to attack another person.
The problem lies at the very root of a culture in which the best way to solve a problem, whether it be personal, business or political, is to resort to violence. It’s not always physical violence. But it is violence none the less. We live in a world where the motto seems to be:
Challenge, defeat, demoralize, eliminate, if necessary, kill.
Someone teasing you? A competitor moving in on your business? Your partner stepping out with another person? A neighbor does something you don’t like? Felling threatened, challenged, embarrassed, powerless, hopeless…? Violence is the answer. You turn the tables on those who tease you. You take steps (legal or not) to drive the competitor out of business. You embarrass, harass, humiliate the unfaithful partner. You give the neighbor some of his own medicine. You assert your “rights” and demand to be treated “fairly.” And, of course, if the non-physical, subtle forms of violence don’t work, ultimately you must destroy violently, quite often leading to murder.
This is the message played out daily on TV, in movies, in video games and even in music. The powerful person/group/country who can vanquish enemies is celebrated.
Violence is not confined to interpersonal relationships. It is the basis for how the top level of human institutions deal with one another. If one government doesn’t like what another government does or believes, sanctions are issued, tariffs are raised, borders are secured, and, at the peak of the squabble, violent intervention in the form of bombings and war ensue.
We can rationalize violence as necessary at certain moments in history as “for the good” of the majority. However, violence has an unpleasant tendency to lead to more violence. Our laws tell us which forms of violence are acceptable (war, police action) and which are not (assault, murder). Ultimately, however, glorifying the conqueror at high levels just teaches us to glorify conquerors and to desire to become conquerors ourselves.
My final mileage total for 2008 was 467 miles. I’ve zeroed out the trip counter and we’ll see how I do in 2009 (if the poor old Mercedes even makes it through another year… I have my doubts). I had some trouble with the car and took it to my mechanic who said the only real problem is that I don’t drive it enough. Oh well, I’m not going to drive just for the sake of driving. I guess the car will just have to spit and sputter a bit.
Since I finished school in December I’ve been in a kind of enjoyable limbo. I haven’t really wanted to do any work and yet I haven’t really figured out what to do with all the time that was previously devoted to school. I’m trying to remember what I did before I had my fit of lunacy and went back to school. Honestly, I can’t even remember. So, I’ve spent a couple of days compiling ideas for all the things I want to do in 2009 and then crafting a schedule to work on them all bit by bit each day. My first schedule had no time alloted for work, which would be nice but I don’t think the mortgage company would understand. So I took another stab at schedule-making and hope I’ve come up with one that will indulge all the interests I’ve ignored for nearly 3 years and still put food on the table.
Here’s to an adventurous 2009!
This was in an email Mom sent me. I love Maxine. You can visit her at Maxine.com
“If you have a dream you should commit to it. If you have a vocation that you love and you want to be the very best, good luck to you. But wherever your journey leads you, remember that life is not an assignment. It is an adventure that should be filled with beauty, bliss and, above all, pleasure.”
-Michael Flocker in The Hedonism Handbook
“If Bohemians wrote the bylaws on pets and city living, there would be goats in city gardens and a community cow. Ferrets would be legal, and the air would flutter with hummingbirds, falcons, owls and bats. And all the animals would glide, swim and frolic, unfettered and free. The Bohemian is all for a peaceable kingdom.”
-Laren Stover in Bohemian Manifesto
“Good taste is the enemy of creativity.”
“If we cultivate our delight in and gratitude for the least thing–a drink of water, a night’s rest, the sight of a blue jay–we cultivate the life strong within us and enliven possibility itself.”
-Stephanie Mills in Epicurean Simplicity
Well, it’s July 3 and I’ve driven less than 250 miles since January 1. I’d say that’s a pretty car-lite driving record. I recently paid my car insurance bill and had to pause a moment and decide if it was really worth it. I’ve gone as long as 2 weeks without getting the car out of the garage. In the colder months, I often discovered the battery had gone dead from sitting so long in the cold. If I can figure out how to get to the places that required me to drive those 250 miles, I’ll get rid of the car. Unfortunately, the OKC metro area has a pretty much worthless public transportation system and really no plan to improve it. OKC and Tulsa were ranked the most vulnerable cities when it comes to citizens dealing with high gas prices — it’s drive or stay home for most folks in the Sooner state.
I found a website called Walk Score that helps you figure out how walkable your community is. Mine scored a 46 which means “Only a few destinations are within easy walking range. For most errands, driving or public transportation is a must.” I suppose this tool uses some type of factor on how far of a walk is an “easy walk.” Personally, I’d consider anything under a mile an easy walk. Most everything is within a mile of my house, but my neighborhood still got a low score. My only complaint is the lack of sidewalks…
I like to bake my own bread — sometimes using the bread machine sometimes not. Today I thought it would be nice to make some sourdough bread. Of course, to do sourdough you have to have a starter. I found this guy’s sourdough starter instructions and used those. I used the organic whole wheat flour I get through my local food co-op. It’ll be 3 or 4 days before it’s ready to use. Hopefully, I’ll be baking sourdough bread on Monday. For now it just looks like a jar of gooey flour.
I also whipped up my first batch of yogurt using my new Yolife yogurt maker. I added banana for flavor. I think I’ll get some peaches for the next batch. It seemed almost too easy. It should be done early this evening and then I’ll pop the little jars in the fridge and give it a taste tomorrow. Fourth of July yogurt… yummy.