Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Procrastinating 101: Tips for the Post-Vacation, Pre-Vacation and I've-Used-Up-All-My-Vacation-Time Sufferer

This week, we are contemplating Marshall Cook's 10th chapter in Slow Down. . . and Get More Done, in which he writes about taking "365 Vacations a Year."  Last week--actually just two posts ago, we considered Cook's advice on escaping "the tyranny of time."  Of course, as Cook reminds us, 
You'll probably never be able to fully escape your schedule[s].  So you must schedule your escape.
We are in need of some serious daily R & R, according to Cook if we:
  • find our energy and spirits seriously lagging during the day
  • feel tension build as the day goes on
  • have trouble relaxing when we finally get a chance to put our feet up at the end of the day.

Who in these crazy, sped-up, is-this-or-is-it-not-a-"double-dip"-recession days doesn't recognize themselves in this description?

Cook says we should 
Examine your day, searching out opportunities for breaks, rewards and minivacations.  If giving yourself a break doesn't come easily for you, if you feel guilty even thinking about it, don't trust yourself to rest when you need to.  Schedule your breaks, and give those appointments to rest top-priority status.

Elements he recommends for such a program include:

  • the three-second time-out--basically a breathing space between stimulus and response, which, for example, could keep us from engendering road rage in the driver we flip off angrily
  • the fifteen-second zone-out--noting our stress responses, and taking a few seconds to "talk down" those shoulders that are hugging our ears again, or to resume breathing when we find ourselves holding our breath
  • the fifteen-minute vacation--pleasant interludes of non-work-related activity, e.g., fiction reading, a short walk, a music break, closing our eyes and revisiting a favorite spot  in our minds[1] 
  • the favorite strategy of felines everywhere--naps[2] 
  • learning to love the little everyday things--if you are gratitude-challenged, I advise a visit to one of my favorite places on the internet, 1000 Awesome Things, where you can learn to appreciate such things as the air just before a thunderstorm and the sound of water lapping against a dock  and watching cream go into coffee and, well, you get the point
  • taking note of the life-enhancers (the people kind)--like the grocery store checkout clerk who tells you to have a great afternoon, and means it, or the guy who chases your wind-snatched hat down the block and returns it 
  • making intelligent use of rewards by sprinkling 3-second, 15-second and 15-minutes breaks throughout the day, "shunning unrewarding rewards," and "eas[ing] important pleasures into [our] li[ves] now"--not waiting for the end of the week, or vacation, or retirement, and 
  • enjoying tasks for their own sake--I tried this today, and found myself taking before and after pictures during my kitchen reclamation project, so I could see again what a good job I was doing.  (Is that perhaps just a little pathetic?)
I intend to continue thinking about these ideas, since I have been experiencing a pretty serious disconnect between my vacationing life and the dreary-by-contrast existence I've come back to.  It seems I would have done well to bring a little vacation back with me in my packed-for-carry-on bags.

[1] Here Cook warns that “[y]ou must know that nobody will give you time, not fifteen minutes or even fifteen seconds, and not even for something as important as daily maintenance of your health and sanity.  And you’ll never find the time.  You must make the time, and you may have to be fairly ruthless about it.  Pressures, obligations, demands—scheduled and unscheduled—will never let up.  Carve out a piece of precious time for yourself each day and use it to restore yourself.”

[2] Cook on catnaps:  “Nothing on a cat’s schedule is more important than the nap.  If a cat made out a “to-do” list, almost all the A-1 priority items would be “take nap” (along with the occasional “eat kibble,” “use box” and “scratch furniture”).  For us it’s the opposite.  Rest is the last priority.  We rob from rest to pay for work and pleasure.  Cats rest when they feel like it.  We rest when we finally allow ourselves to.  We have much to learn from the cat.”

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