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.