I’ve long joked that I have two settings: “full-bore” and “off.” Modulation and moderation, while lovely concepts, have always existed just outside of my grasp.
Okay, that’s crap. They’ve existed as concepts, period.
My own journals only reach as far back as freshman year of college, the ones extant, anyway, but still, you can map the signs of today’s all-or-nothing Colleen. The endless, earnest lists filled with things to purchase, in order to fulfill some very specific and lofty role I’d conceived for myself. The Big Plans and Serious Resolve which make their semi-annual appearance at the end of an old calendar year and the beginning of a new academic one. And then, of course, reboot after reboot mid-term, when something inevitably went awry.
I’ve learned my lesson about such foolishness as saying “never again!”, at least, I think I have. (See how I dodged that one? Progress!) I’ve definitely learned it in the area of relationships, where I was once foolish enough not only to literally utter the phrase “Well, I’m done!”, but to do it out loud, in front of a witness. Who, as I recall, actually took a step back from me.
I’ve also learned a fair number of tips and tricks about making work work. Accountability is a huge help, but the source must be frequently refreshed, because my modus operandi, honed by years of service as the child of parents with high expectations, is to choose stern taskmasters, then win them over with circus tricks and the old soft shoe. Doing the hardest (or most important) work in the hours I’m freshest is another big one, as is providing myself with the right space (quiet, usually, and fairly neat, and often private). And giving myself some time and room to putter, since puttering seems to release some sort of magical creative chemical in my brain.
What I’ve finally accepted that I suck at is figuring, as in “figuring out what I’ll want to do outside of the moment of commitment” and “figuring how much time it will take to do whatever I’ve committed to.” I’m coming around to the idea that contractor-type calculations, figure it out, add 30% of the cost and double (at least) the time, may not be conservative enough. Time after time, I’ve found myself back in the rather uncomfortable position I’m in currently: owing a lot of people I really like a lot of stuff that seemed like something I’d not only love doing, but have all the time in the world to devote to.
To steal and pervert a line of Will Rogers’, hoard time: you ain’t gettin’ any more of the stuff.
At my most calmly productive, I was mapping out a daily schedule for myself down to the fifteen-minute segment, a trick I picked up from my friend, Mark, one of the more successful and productive and still not insufferable people I know. I didn’t have to think about what I had to do next: I just looked down at my calendar and it told me. It kind of sucked, but it kind of rocked, too. The rocking part was obvious: holy CATS, did I get stuff done! And did I feel good at the end of the day for doing it! The sucking part seems obvious, lots of me rebelling in you are not the boss of me fashion, but I’m not sure I really got at the root of it. Maybe it wasn’t me wanting to fly free; maybe it was me being afraid of what would happen if I actually succeeded. You know, that whole Marianne-Williamson-by-way-of-Nelson-Mandela thing (or was it the other way around?).
In the spirit of scientific experimentation, I’m giving it another whirl, 2.o-style (i.e. with free online tools, not ugly, expensive Covey paper products). I spent the better part of 90 minutes of Sunday afternoon mapping out this week, slotting in the hard appointments and then the Quadrant 2 stuff and then all the rest, until I was looking at a screen which more closely resembled a really, really badly fragmented hard drive than a modest solopreneur’s Google calendar. I also had the closest thing I’ve felt to an anxiety attack just afterward, but that might just as well be a function of too little sleep filled with too-weird dreams fueled by a late-night screening of one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen.
I make fairly few requests here (at least, I hope I do, as a staunch proponent of the 95/5 rule, my, such a lot of rules in a personal blog post!), but I will make one now: what do you do, or have you done, to keep yourself honest? I realize the answer will be different for every human on the planet, and that you may look at this whole post uncomprehendingly (and boy, do I envy you right now if you do). I think, though, that if you’re reading this, chances are good that not only have you been down this particular stretch of road, but that you have stories to share, and stories of a personal nature are my favorite way of taking in new information.
Either way, I trust you will wish me luck, as I do you with your endeavors.
Oh, what a week we’ll have…