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

Monday, December 19, 2011

Done for the Week: Groping My Way Through the Dark

Last week flew by, as weeks are wont to do, winding down the year.  It is dark by 4:30 now, and I start longing for bed at about 7:30.  My body and mind are suckers for the hibernation signals.  Alas, no cave, and no accommodation of this ancient impulse in our frenzied year-end rituals.

Here's what I managed to drag myself through last week, but not without a lot of yawning.  And yes, the occasional curse.

Done for the Week:  Dec. 12-Dec. 18, 2011

  1. Took my dog to the dog park with my son
  2. Read Now is the Time to Open Your Heart, by Alice Walker
  3. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
  4. Published 2 blog posts
  5. Continued work on current clients' projects
  6. Spent 14+ hours working on recall campaign
  7. Played my now-tolerable piano almost every day
  8. Attended 1 yoga class
  9. Continued to support my daughter's growing family
  10. Attended Issues Night meeting and holiday potluck
  11. Attended Board meeting
  12. Meditated 3 times
  13. Watched one episode of Eureka with my son
  14. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Traitor to Memory aloud with my husband--just past the middle of this 700+ pages tome
  15. Went to dinner with my husband
  16. Did laundry 
  17. Arranged vet appointment for immunization updates
  18. Continued Christmas shopping
  19. Took my sister to lunch for her birthday
  20. Completed my sister's birthday jewelry gift
  21. Took friend out for pre-holiday lunch
  22. Attended Sunday church service
  23. Tracked over three times as many blog visits in the first half of this month as in all of December 2010
  24. Paid our monthly bills

For the second week in a row, the most important thing I did last week was to spend parts of four days working on the campaign to recall the governor of my state.  This included participating in the press conference to announce the collection of over half a million signatures in 30 days, just shy of the number needed to trigger the recall.  Our goal is to get 720,000 signatures on the recall petitions in the time remaining--until January 17th--to establish a secure margin against expected challenges.  

Once again, some of my volunteer time was spent standing out in the cold with a clipboard, collecting signatures, a few insulting words and gestures, some honest but civil disagreement, words and gestures of support, and hot chocolate, coffee and a cookie purchased for me by three separate grateful individuals who warmed my body and my heart.
Last week's focus goal was to continue the fledgling (one week old) momentum  on my novel, and specifically to produce one more chapter.  The bad news is that I failed to make/find the necessary time in a very busy week to sit down and collect my thoughts and turn them into pages.  The good news is that. . . well, there isn't really any on this front.  Unless I count the guilt and disappointment that remind me of my goal.

Realistically, I am unlikely to get much writing done this week.  My household is relocating to New Orleans midweek, to spend Christmas with my mother.  Somehow the prospect of taking our not-so-organized show on the road is more than a bit daunting, adding to the normal stress of this time of year.  There's the dog to stash--requiring shots, licensing and a permit for the dog park frequented by our dog sitter, not to mention the guilt we are all negotiating for abandoning this most loving and nervous of family members.  Then there's packing and the joy of air travel, with at least one flight phobic in our merry band.  And papers and mail to stop.  And shopping to finish.  And property taxes to pay, a tree to finish decorating so we can leave it behind, a partridge or two hanging about. . .   

So later for the novel.

My focus goal for this week is to make time to exercise at least three times (Note the complete absence of exercise from this week's list of accomplishments.), and to meditate daily.  If this seems like a pretty tall meditating order, it should be just enough zen to counter the effects of our dislocation and the reconfiguration of family demands to which I am likely to be overly responsive.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Lateness as an Evasive Move

Available from Zazzle
Procrastinating 101 again.  (Funny how nearly two years into this little online seminar, we're still at the survey level, the introductory 101.  But then we are still accommodating late arrivals.  And some of us--ahem--are still working on basic knowledge and skills, even after all this time.) 

This week, we are focusing on "Cure Seven:  Respect Yourself," in Diana DeLonzor's prescriptive Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually ChallengedTheoretically, if we have been employing DeLonzor's good advice, we should be nearly cured by now.  I suspect, however, that some cases may prove a bit more intransigent.

The current chapter paints a portrait of The Evader latenik which many of us will recognize.  Ms. DeLonzor tells us this kind of problem with showing up on time is really all about low self-esteem, which can contribute to punctuality difficulties in one of three main ways:

  • When you suffer from low self-esteem, you tend to expect less of yourself.  Because of those low expectations, you may set lower standards for the way in which you live your life.  Chronic lateness, unreliability, and procrastination can be part of those lower-than-normal standards.
  • Low self-esteem can cause feelings of anxiety or depression, prompting you to engage in the type of actions I refer to [as] the "evader syndrome," in an effort to relieve that anxiety.  The urge to soothe yourself can take priority over being on time.
  • Low self-esteem can cause you to fear success or failure and to engage in what is known as "self-handicapping."
No self-assessment quiz this week.  I guess we're expected to "know it when we see it."  Though I would venture to say that I know lots of people whose self-esteem is low enough that they would compliantly apply virtually any negative label to their own behavior, but who are not, in my view, especially prone to lateness.

DeLonzor advises this five-pronged strategy for improving the condition--evasive lateness--if it indeed inflicts us. 
  • Expect more from yourself--do what you know is right.
  • Learn to manage your anxiety.
  • Overcome fear of sucess or failure by challenging yourself.
  • Do something you love.
  • Build and maintain friendships and family ties.
As we have come to expect, Ms. DeLonzor presents a series of "exercises" which she says will help us begin to improve our self-esteem, and to change the lateness behaviors that stem from its less than ideal state.  I can already give myself credit for having practiced one of them religiously for years, though in isolation it has not yet had the effect of making me more punctual.  Here's how she describes it:
Let go of perfectionism.  Every day for the next week [or for several years] practice leaving the house or office without making things perfect.  You might leave the bed unmade or your desk in a mess [or the entire place looking like a cyclone has hit it].  Notice how it feels to "chill out" and let things go.  You'll probably find it liberating.  [I don't.]
 So, one down.  What else can I do to effect this "cure?"  Oh, yeah.  The exercise that would have us doing something courageous, something outside our oft-noted "comfort zone."  Like oh, say, competing in a triathlon, or two?  Been there, done that, still late for too many important things--though not for the race.

In fact, as I look over DeLonzor's list of 13 exercises, designed to help us begin to implement her five-pronged approach to a cure for low-self-esteem-based lateness,  I see that I have been doing much of what she suggests--recognizing negative self-talk; replacing it with positive self-talk; identifying my purpose and setting short-term goals related to it; nurturing relationships with family and friends.  Perhaps the difficulty is that I haven't been specifically targeting lateness.  DeLonzor does concede that some of us may have gotten to a point in life where our self-esteem level is fairly reasonable, but we may retain some residual habits and patterns which originated with since-resolved self-esteem issues. 

At this point in our reading of DeLonzor's book, we have run through all seven of the promised cures.  And I am coming to the conclusion that my lateness problem may have been caused originally by nearly all of the syndromes and character defects she outlines.  But the real difficulty is the habit of lateness that is deeply ingrained in me.  I believe that "treating" or "curing" whatever may have caused my lateness in the first place will not be enough to make me on time.  I need to change my habits.

But Ms. DeLonzor is one step ahead of me.  Next week's chapter:  "A Few Words on Habit Changing."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Done for the Week: Not So Pretty, But Progress Nonetheless

Another week.  Another dollar sum insufficient to meet all obligations.

A recent Census Bureau report alerted us to our teetering state on the brink of middle class removal, despite our several full- and part-time jobs.  On its heels came the $15,000+ bills which have begun to roll in for my son's not-quite-24-hour hospital stay ten days ago.  Luckily, we are long past any enchantment with a materialist middle class lifestyle.  But it would be nice to be able to pay our bills.

In between bouts of worrying about money, and worrying about my mom and my children and my end-of-the-semester-overwhelmed spouse, I managed to get these things done:

Done for the Week:  Dec. 5-Dec. 11, 2011
  1. Biked twice--still healing before resuming running
  2. Read House Rules, by Jodi Picoult
  3. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
  4. Published 3 blog posts
  5. Continued work on current clients' projects
  6. Spent 14+ hours working on recall campaign
  7. Arranged, endured and paid for two sessions of piano repair and tuning
  8. Played my now-tolerable piano every day
  9. Attended 1 yoga class
  10. Continued to support my daughter's growing family
  11. Participated in church service organized by my social justice committee
  12. Went to my tap class
  13. Watched one episode of Eureka with my son
  14. Watched one episode of Boss with my husband
  15. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Traitor to Memory aloud with my husband--we're midway now in this 700+ pages tome
  16. Made Sunday soup
  17. Went to dinner with my husband
  18. Did laundry 
  19. Finished draft of novel chapter
  20. Arranged dog care for Christmas trip
  21. Began Christmas shopping
  22. Arranged birthday lunch with my sister
  23. Began my sister's birthday jewelry gift
  24. Bought 2012 planning and purse calendars

The most important thing I did last week was to spend parts of four days working on the campaign to recall the governor of my state.  In terms of potential impact, this project is clearly the biggest thing I am currently engaged in.  And doing my small part helps me to keep at bay the shredded-social-fabric blues.  Five more weeks to go in this phase of the operation.  The numbers are looking good, but it's way too early to relax.  So this undertaking will continue to claim whatever chunks of my time I can spare--and some I probably can't--into mid-January.

Last week's focus goal--back for the second week by "popular" demand--was "to resume work on my novel."  More specifically, and accountably, I  vowed (yeeks!) "to make better use of what calm spaces there are, to more proactively protect my time, and to complete at least a chapter of my novel."  So how did I do?

First of all, what "calm spaces?"  Secondly, with the recall campaign hungry for any semi-competent and reliable bodies they can conscript, and a four-year-old grandson who can now call me on the phone to wheedle time with Nana, I have to confess I pretty much flunked "proactively protect[ing] my time."  Oh well.

But the good news is that I did manage to crank out a new chapter of my novel.  Okay, truth be told, I did so by forcing myself out to sit at Starbuck's last night just so I wouldn't have to admit defeat in this week's accounting.  But that in itself was an accomplishment, on a cold and dark December evening.  And after a somewhat scrappy week of flaring tempers, I am grateful to my husband for accompanying me and keeping me honest.

For the coming week, I will focus only on continuing this fledgling momentum.  One more chapter.  Forget calm spaces.  Forget "proactivity" of any sort.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So Many Blogs, So Little Time. . .

If you are reading this post, according to my "analytics," you are most likely:
  • one of my (thankfully many) family members
  • one of my (thankfully many) friends
  • looking for a cool image
  • seeking a downloadable copy of Neil Fiore's Unschedule
  • accidentally here because of the vagaries of Google search
  • interested in "bed" 
  • someone whose book I am writing about
  • interested in procrastination
  • a procrastinator
  • like me, a perpetually recovering procrastinator
You may fall into more than one--or even all--of these categories.

However that shakes out for you, I'm guessing that you could benefit from, and would probably enjoy the work of other bloggers writing about procrastination.  I recommend you take a look at the blogs below.  Some have cool images, some mention the Unschedule, all have useful information and advice to impart.  By way of a caveat, I should tell you that none have the word "bed" in their title.

Check them out!

Don't Delay--Dr. Timothy Pychyl's Psychology Today blog subtitled "Understanding procrastination and how to achieve our goals."  Dr. Pychyl's work has informed many of my blog posts.  His new book, The Procrastinator's Digest: A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle will be the subject of my next Procrastinating 101 series.  Dr. Pychyl is a multi-faceted communicator, whose methods include podcasting and cartooning, and whose website is an eclectic trove of procrastination resources.

The Procrastination Equation--"Everything you wanted to know about procrastination but put off finding out," by Dr. Piers Steel, who just happens to be the author of a book by the same name, which was the subject of 12 of my Procrastinating 101 posts earlier this year--and my favorite, thus far, of all the zillions of books I've read about procrastinating.  While procrastinating.

Procrastinating Writers--"Guidance for Writers Who Struggle to Get Started," by Jennifer Blanchard, creativity and writing coach and, oh yeah, procrastinating writer.  Ms Blanchard is also a prolific tweeter.  Just try and keep up with her frequents tweets!

Science and Sensibility --by Dr. Bill Knaus, co-author of the classic Overcoming Procrastination and author of the new End Procrastination Now.  The blog is labeled "A psychological potpourri," and deals frequently with procrastination, ADD, and similar issues.

Structured Procrastination:  One Man's Effort to Avoid His Actual Duties--by Dr. John Perry, of structured procrastination fame, and recent recipient of a 1g Nobel prize for his work on the concept.

These are blogs I like, and learn from.  You can certainly find others--and if you do happen upon a good one, please tell me about it.

By the way, if you google "procrastination blogs," a lot of what you find will be bloggers--of every ilk, on every topic--posting about their own blogging procrastination.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Procrastinating 101: The Rule of Three For Rule Breakers

This week's  Procrastinating 101 deals with "Cure Six:  Play by the Rules" from Diana De Lonzor's Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged.  In this chapter, Ms. DeLonzor explores the lateness issues of those individuals who fit her Rebel label.  If my husband had a problem with lateness (besides the challenge of hanging with a latenik spouse), this would be him.

To begin with, it is curious to me that a treatment of the rule-averse would be so strongly governed by the "rule of three"--according to Wikipedia
a principle in writing that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader/audience of this form of text is also more likely to consume information if it is written in groups of threes. From slogans ("Go, fight, win!") to films, many things are structured in threes. Examples include The Three Stooges, Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Three Blind Mice.
In Ms. DeLonzor's case, we have, not goats, stooges, or blind mice (see, I used three examples!), but rather:
three underlying motivations for the Rebel's lateness;
  • The desire to feel powerful  [DeLonzor calls this type "Power Players."]
  • Difficulty accepting authority ["Authority Resistors," in DeLonzor's parlance.]
  • The need to feel special or unique [DeLonzor's "Special Seekers."]
three common characteristics, shared by these three types;
  • Unlike those in other tardy categories, rebels often feel little remorse.
  • More men than women seem to populate this category.
  • This species of late people seems to have the ability to control their lateness more than do other tardy types.
and three steps for overcoming Rebel lateness;
  • Become aware of when and why you rebel
  • Learn that cooperation is a part of everyday life
  • Find control and power in more constructive ways
Sticking with this theoretically pleasing motif, I identified three exercises from DeLonzor's list of ten which I plan to explore, given that my husband's Rebel nature may have rubbed off a bit on me.

The first of these involves recognizing our rebellions, and looking for patterns.  (I expect I might find that I am most likely to rebel when I have said "yes" though I wanted to say "no.")

The second consists of practicing periods of cooperation--just to get the hang of it.  (I can see how this might be useful in my relationship with my husband, for example.  Though I wouldn't want to take it too far, of course.)

And the third focuses on building a unique identity around accomplishments, rather than flakiness and lateness.  (But I can still dress "artistically," right?)

Of course, if you are a Rebel latenik, you will find more compelling detail, and some great stories, in Ms. DeLonzor's book.  Unless you refuse to go there.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Done for the Week: Shit Happens, Once Again

Another short week.  And a huge bite out of the middle of it.  (See item #6 on the list below.)

I'm not sure I have more than my share of mini-crises, though I have been told that my life reads like a bad soap opera at times.  And here we are at the beginning of December, and my family is on its second baffling medical mystery and third fairly significant trauma since October.

The challenge for me is to respond each time with love and courage and flexibility--and not to completely abandon my life plan in the process. 

How am I doing?  Not great.  But not awful.

Done for the Week:  Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2011
  1. Biked twice--still recovering from injury
  2. Read No Signposts in the Sea, by Vita Sackville-West
  3. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
  4. Published 2 blog posts
  5. Continued work on current clients' projects
  6. Spent 24+ hours in a clinic, a hospital emergency room, and the hospital with my son, ruling out Guillain-Barré syndrome
  7. Spent a day catching up on lost sleep and recovering from stress
  8. Meditated three times
  9. Attended 1 yoga class
  10. Went to my tap class
  11. Watched one episode of Eureka with my son
  12. Watched one episode of Boss with my husband
  13. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Traitor to Memory aloud with my husband
  14. Made Sunday soup
  15. Saw my doctor for injury evaluation
  16. Went to dinner with my husband
  17. Did laundry 
  18. Orchestrated hanging of our outdoor Christmas lights
  19. Read draft of my husband's journal article
  20. Took my grandson on his day-long birthday train adventure 
  21. Printed out a copy of the Unschedule

A great deal of my energy last week was spent "rising to the occasion" of my son's frightening physical symptoms, which came on suddenly midweek.  Doing what needed to be done to shepherd him through the medical system and support him in enduring the necessary workups and tests and procedures, including approximately thirty attempted blood draws in his dehydrated state, was the most important thing I got done.  At this point, we don't really have an answer as to what caused his progressive numbness, or why it began to abate after 48 hours.  But the scariest things have been ruled out.  And he is back at school, though the ordeal has put him behind at the end of the semester.  We will continue to follow up with doctors, and hope to put the experience behind us.  And I have yet another chance to learn how to move forward from the periodic derailments that continue to visit my life.

Last week's focus goal was "to resume work on my novel."  Ahem.

It was once suggested to me, rather unkindly I thought, that the drama in my life, both good and bad, served the purpose of protecting me from the risk of failing (or succeeding?) at my most important work.  Never mind that the person making this suggestion didn't know me well; mistook for my "most important work" the work she thought I should be engaged in; and was most ultimately offensive in focusing on the adoption of my son as the great interruption she saw it for. 

I think it bears examining the pattern even a stranger, albeit a rather perceptive one, could observe in my bumpy history.  For whatever reason (Could it be the six kids my husband and I share?  my large, close extended family?  the dark intensity of my Irish-Catholic roots?  my embrace of a slightly offbeat lifestyle, grounded in the '60s? bad karma? psychological instability?), I seem to have a penchant for "coming a cropper," as they say, and for being blown off course in the wake of personal and family disasters. 

Perhaps I need to start seeing this stuff as, in Thomas Moore's words, "nourishing to the soul."  And perhaps I need to draw on all this unsolicited nourishment and develop a routine for righting myself in the aftermath.

So once again, I need to get back on the horse, and focus on resuming work on my novel.  I don't want to believe that I choose or allow the frequent big-deal interruptions to "my work," but I do admit that they have functioned, at times, to let me off a hook or two.  And I vow to get better at resuming my work, and my focus on it, in the periods of calm between the storms.  This week, I will try to make better use of what calm spaces there are, to more proactively protect my time, and to complete at least a chapter of my novel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Late (Again) Because Too Many Funny Things Happened on the Way to Wherever

Is this you?

Or this?

Or this?

                                          Absent-Minded Professor Brainard's housekeeper tries to keep                                                 him from missing his wedding--for the third time!

Then this week's Procrastinating 101 may just resonate, as we look at "Cure Five:  Get Focused and Organized" in Diana DeLonzor's Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged.

According to Ms. DeLonzor's schema, the Absent-Minded Professor is one of the seven types of chronically late people--which you might be if you answer yes to two or more of the following questions:
  • Do I frequently forget appointments, meetings, or where I put the car keys?
  • Do I often forget names and details of conversations?
  • Have I frequently been accused of being unobservant or of not paying attention?
  • Do I notice that the light has turned green only after the driver behind me honks?
  • Do I regularly digress from the subject when speaking?
  • Do I jump from one activity to another before the first is finished?
(That would be three yeses for me.)

DeLonzor says that three main "problem areas" typify those of us who find ourselves in this overall profile: 
  • Distractibility (like The Family Circus's Billy)
  • Forgetfulness and Disorganization (like, well, me)
  • Lack of Awareness of Others (like Fred McMurray's Prof. Brainard, who kept forgetting to show up for his own wedding)
The legions of individuals who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder--like one of my children--have major struggles in these areas.  But not all of them, or of the rest of us, need Ritalin or some other concoction to cope.  And we can all benefit, argues DeLonzor, by taking these three steps:
  • Learning to stay focused on one thing for a sustained period of time
  • Getting organized and adding structure to our lives
  • Increasing our awareness and observation of other people
As in her previous chapters, DeLonzor approaches our reform by outlining a series of exercises designed to help identify the ways in which these behaviors and tendencies are making us late, and practicing new habits.  

My favorites on her list?  Meditation to improve focus; and establishing times and days for certain tasks.  The first of these I continue to work on making time for, finding that the more I need it the less likely I am to do it--grrr!   The second is perennially difficult for me as well.  And I am not helped much by my freelancer's schedule.  I am inspired by DeLonzor's simple instruction, however, to make another attempt to set up at least a skeletal structure, and to resist the impulse to agree to whatever scheduling requests and changes my clients and part-time employers might suggest. 

So no, Ms. S, I can't squeeze in covering for you at a luncheon next week.  I'll be meditating.

And next week Tuesday?  I'll be here blogging about Cure 6--for the timeliness Rebels in the crowd. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Done for the Week: Missing the Essential

Why does it feel like last week was so busy?  Because it was? 

Why does it feel like I'm avoiding the most important work?  Because I am?

Done for the Week:  Nov. 21-27, 2011
  1. Biked twice--nursing undiagnosed injury--shin splints?  tendonitis?  DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness--it's a runners' thing)?
  2. Walked my dog three times, with various family members 
  3. Read Love Invents Us, by Amy Bloom; Called to Freedom, by Stephen Boehrer
  4. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
  5. Published 3 blog posts
  6. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
  7. Attended Jobs Prayer Vigil
  8. Attended Town Hall for proposed city Jobs Act
  9. Continued to collect recall petition signatures
  10. Celebrated Thanksgiving with my family
  11. Had my daughter and her growing family over for day-after-Thanksgiving dinner
  12. Babysat my new granddaughter and her four-year-0ld brother twice
  13. Refinanced our house
  14. Watched one episode of Boss with my husband
  15. Scheduled weekly volunteering at Recall office for the duration
  16. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Traitor to Memory aloud with my husband
  17. Watched one episode of Eureka with my son
  18. Replaced broken toilet seat
  19. Cleaned the kitchen and sunroom/dining room
  20. Cleaned out entryway closet
  21. Started cleaning my study 
  22. Scheduled car repair appointment
  23. Scheduled doctor's appointment
  24. Ordered birthday present for my mom
  25. Ordered replacement part for the dishwasher
  26. Got new running shoes
  27. Tried new turkey leftover recipe
  28. Scheduled piano repair/tuning appointment
  29. Went to Happy Hour with my husband
  30. Did laundry

I didn't spend the last week just spinning my wheels, but I did, as this week's quote says, "not do the one thing [I] ought to do."  I don't exactly feel that I am wasting my life, because most of what I am busy with is important to me.  But I am coming to realize that it is time to get back to work on my novel.

I have been experiencing some noticeable muscle/joint soreness lately and, in true hypochondriacal fashion, registered a fear the other morning that I might have bone cancer.  While it is much more likely that I have merely overdone my training, and underdone my sleep and necessary self-care the last couple of months, that moment of anxiety was enough to clarify some things for me. 

Like everyone else, I do not have unlimited tenure on this planet.  And like most of us, I do a fairly good job of ignoring that fact most of the time.  But when I was staring it in the face that morning, I thought of my novel.  And I thought that its unfinished state would be my deepest regret if I were suddenly to run out of time.

And thus, my focus goal for the coming week is to resume work on my novel.  And in service of that goal, I plan to employ Neil Fiore's Unschedule--subject of the single-most viewed post, hands down, of my blog.

As to last week, my most important accomplishment was refinancing our house.  Not single-handedly, of course, but in cooperation with my husband and my credit union.  This act matters because of the thousands of dollars and years of financial freedom it will reclaim for us, so that we can keep it together that much longer--provided we don't die of bone cancer sooner.

Last week's focus goal was "to continue the effort to get to the gym," and to "try to walk my dog on days when I don't work out."  Because of the whole fake-bone cancer thing, I was forced to take it easy workout-wise.  But I did manage to make it to the gym twice, and to walk my dog three times--twice at the dog park, from my house to my daughter's and back, a short drive but a forty-minute round-trip walk.

And now, in the interest of keeping some time for (gulp) my personal n-word, I'm declaring this post done.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On Thanksgiving: 10 Things to be Thankful For if You're a Procrastinator

Everything, it seems, is political these days.  The internet is awash with advice on how to avoid political wrangling at our holiday tables; how to eat ethically; and why we should opt out of a politically incorrect celebration of our vanquishing of a native people.  Here in Wisconsin, people are using the occasion of the holiday to recommend the removal of the "biggest turkey of all"--our governor.

But whatever our stance on Thanksgiving, the holiday, it can serve as a reminder to be grateful for all that we have.  So whether we are preparing a feast (with or without meat; organic or not) or a TV dinner; suffering relatives or other fools, or dining alone; eating out or in; or boycotting the whole turkey day thing--we can take a moment to appreciate the good things in our lives.

If we are procrastinators, we may be late (for Thanksgiving, or whatever else we are doing today), but we do have some "gifts" that are all our very own.

Ten Things to be Thankful For If You're a Procrastinator:
  1. The long-suffering friends, family and coworkers who love us anyway
  2. The "procrastination industry"--all those writers, researchers, bloggers, therapists, coaches and consultants who are hell-bent on improving us
  3. All the cool t-shirts, mugs, hats, mouse pads, refrigerator magnets and other paraphernalia that make light of our condition, and allow us to announce it to the world
  4. The time we can spend smelling the roses when we're putting off something else
  5. Fast food, microwaves, express lines, all night copy shops, and all those other cheats that aid us in our last-minute dashes
  6. The luxury we allow ourselves to complete no project before its time
  7. The good company we're in
  8. Always having something to do, by virtue of never having finished so many things
  9. Not having a worse affliction/character flaw
  10. Tomorrow
Rather than wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, my wish is for you to Be Happy, and Give Thanks!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Procrastinating 101: Getting Ourselves in Line

Diana DeLonzor's seventh chapter in Never Be Late Again:  7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged--"Cure Four:  Develop Your Discipline Muscle"--is our Procrastinating 101 focus for this week.  I can't say I'm all that thrilled at the prospect of yet another admonishment on self-discipline, especially two days before Thanksgiving.  But I'm committed to slogging through, and learning what I can.

Is the notion of lagging self-discipline more palatable because the chapter begins with a quote about a nun with this trait?  Are we in good company if it can be said of Maria, in The Sound of Music, that "She's always late for everything, except for every meal"? 

In her introductory paragraphs, DeLonzor reminds us of studies indicating that we late-niks as a group have more issues with self-control than do those who generally arrive, and complete things, on time.  Dr. Piers Steel has written most comprehensively about impulsivity as a contributor to procrastination in The Procrastination Equation.  

DeLonzor also points out that self-discipline is not necessarily an across-the-board issue.  We might do quite well at quitting smoking, or exercising, or cleaning the kitchen nightly, but play waayyyy too much solitaire on the computer, or play chicken with the snooze button, or read just one more chapter when we know we don't have time. . . .  (Hmm.  Sounds familiar. . .)  Reading this made me think of something I learned from reading Switch:  How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and blogged about earlier this yearself-control is exhaustible.  That is to say, those of us who are fighting our natures or battling stress on many fronts may simply run out of the capacity to behave optimally. 

What is this capacity whose supply can be outstripped by the demands of our everyday lives?  In DeLonzor's nutshell, self-discipline is 
all about. . . the ability to make sacrifices and accept limitations.  It's the strength to choose what's best in the long run instead of what feels good right now, even if it means having to give something up.
And for each of us, our difficulty (or facility) with self-discipline is largely determined by
  • Our experience with effort and discomfort
  • Genetics
  • Family influences
    So, are you one of those challenged by impulsiveness?  Three or more yeses in response to the following questions qualify you as an "Indulger," plagued by a "weak discipline muscle."
    • Do I have several bad habits that I've tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to conquer?
    • Do I tend to play things by ear, rather than sticking to a schedule?
    • Do I frequently say or do things I regret?
    • Do I have difficulty starting projects?
    • Am I usually impatient when I have to wait?
    • Do I lack long-range goals and daily plans?

    My answersWell, maybe a fewYupNot reallyNope; finishing projects is my bugaboo.  Depends on what I'm waiting for--dentist appointment and flight boarding?  yes; Christmas and check-out lines (unless I'm late for something), not so much.  And yes

    I guess that makes me sort of a borderline Indulger.  Yeeks!  I'm already an official Rationalizer, a Producer and a Deadliner.  Is is possible that I commit all 7 deadly sins of lateness?  Or are these quizzes like a lot of zodiac signs and fortune cookies, general enough to apply universally given a liberal enough reading?  But I digress--another character flaw.  Back to self-discipline, and the cure.

    Interestingly, DeLonzor relies on different research findings than those invoked by the Heath brothers to maintain that habits of self-discipline carry over from one realm to another--that we can build brain structure that assists us in resisting impulses in new situations. 

    For the Indulgers, and yes, the borderline Indulgers among us, DeLonzor recommends this three-pronged approach to developing our self-discipline "muscles:"  
    • Learn to increase your tolerance for discomfort
    • Practice making transitions
    • Become a planner and goal setter
    For each strategy, she again provides a group of exercises--ten pages in all--designed to boost self-control.  Clearly, I don't have the requisite self-control, or the time, to engage in all of them.  I definitely plan to skip the first, which basically involves self-deprivation--and thus flies in the face of the self-care I've been advised to grow in my life.  I'm actually already pretty good at sacrifice and discomfort, having been a mother for 34 years now, and a Catholic for some 20 years before that.

    I would probably benefit, however, from these two:
    Practice stopping midstream.  Whether you're in the middle of an engrossing novel or watching a good TV program, practice stopping before you're ready, if even for five minutes.  Doing so will give you practice in making transitions so that when it really matters, you'll be up to the task;
    Practice making and adhering to a set schedule that includes time-estimates and priorities.
    And the key with this last exercise is to base the list of tasks and priorities on long- and short-term goals, instead of randomly adding items to a to-do list, with an unmoored goal of getting "as much done as possible."
    It seems, after all this time, and all the procrastination gurus I've consulted, it so often comes down to this.  Maybe there's a reason my post on Neil Fiore's "unschedule" is by far my most popular.  So far, I have not had/developed the necessary self-discipline to use it myself!  Perhaps it's time. . .

      Monday, November 21, 2011

      Done for the Week: Resisting Hibernation

      It's back!  That time of year when I struggle to get out of pajamas, and out of the house.

      It's dark well before dinner, and chilly temperatures have us encased in increasingly heavy clothing when we must venture out. 

      Add to that the accumulated fatigue of the last year's onslaught of crises, from the personal to the political, and my inner child is threatening a strike.

      I am still managing to put one foot in front of the other, if slowly, and to be semi-productive.  Here's what got done last week:

      Done for the Week:  Nov. 14-20, 2011
      1. Ran once, biked twice
      2. Read All Passion Spent, by Vita Sackville-West
      3. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
      4. Published 2 blog posts
      5. Continued significant work on current clients' projects
      6. Welcomed my new tiny granddaughter home, after 5 weeks in the hospital!
      7. Participated in Occupy Milwaukee event marking national day of economic emergency
      8. Participated in Recall Walker Kick-off Rally
      9. Began collecting signatures on recall petition
      10. Volunteered to staff Recall office
      11. Attended my organization's annual public meeting
      12. Watched two episodes of Boss with my husband
      13. Did laundry
      14. Cleaned out entryway closet
      15. Cleaned refrigerator
      16. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Traitor to Memory aloud with my husband
      17. Went to Happy Hour with my husband
      18. Planned trip to spend Christmas with my mother
      19. Booked plane reservations
      20. Held family meeting to plan Thanksgiving dinner
      21. Cooked Mexican Chicken Lime Soup

      Two really important things happened this past week, only one of which I can list as a personal accomplishment.  The first is that my new granddaughter finally came home, after five weeks in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.  She and her family are doing well, for which I am thrilled.  My son-in-law is on paternity leave through this coming week, so my own support duties are minimal for the time being.  When my daughter goes back to work, after the first of the year, I get to start remembering how to care for an infant and a preschooler simultaneously.  (I'm taking my vitamins.)

      Last week's other important thing was that I began to collect signatures on the petitions to recall our governor and lieutenant governor.  After ten destructive months in office, many of us are committed to putting an end to their consistently undemocratic campaign to radically undermine what's left of the safety net for our most vulnerable citizens.  I expect to work hard while our 60-day countdown clock ticks.  Wisconsin--Forward!

      Meanwhile, I will continue to be engaged in trying to live my own life.  And I will need energy and stamina.  Apropos of this concern, last week's focus goal was "to work out at least three days."   I did manage to bike twice and run once, but one workout session combined biking and running--so actually I only worked out two days.  Our recent time change means that most available workout time is after dark, when my strong hibernation impulse kicks in big time.  All I really want to do after dinner is read, relax with my family, and go to bed early.  I don't even have basketball to keep me awake this season.  But I intend to continue the effort to get to the gym--my focus goal for the coming week.

      It helps that I am surrounded by challenged fellow-exercisers, including my husband, my triathlon training partner, and both of my sons.  I need to take advantage of the guilt I feel when I let them down, as they often don't exercise if I don't.  I plan to accept more of their invitations.  I will also try to walk my dog on days when I don't work out, and to exercise earlier in the day when possible.  

      It will be easier to work in working out if I can be in a bit more control of my time (more feasible since my granddaughter is home), and complete regular tasks, like blogging, before noon.  

      Whew!  I just made it.