0263 – Stop searching under streetlights

It’s a familiar joke and visual that I’ve thought about several times– the idea of a drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight– not because he lost them there, he had actually lost them in the bushes in the dark– but he was looking under the streetlight because it was easier to search there.

It’s funny when framed that way, but I’m totally guilty of doing the same thing in other less obvious circumstances. For example, at work, whenever I have a spare moment I tend to default to tinkering with our social media profiles, replying to people and studying the people we’re following. Why? Because I’m good at it, because I’m familiar with it. But it’s not necessarily the most important thing I could be doing with my time. I could try to argue that I can’t always be rigidly prioritizing the most important thing I need to be doing [1], because I won’t have the energy. Sometimes I will be weary, tired, sometimes I won’t have a lot of time or energy on my hands, and it makes sense to default to something mindless and simple.

That is simultaneously a little true and untrue. It’s the most annoying class of dilemmas I’ve encountered so far– one where you’re technically right within a particular frame, but you’re more broadly wrong because you chose the wrong frame to begin with– or rather, you made decisions earlier that left you in a suboptimal frame.

Does that sound a little too abstract? Let’s run through the layers of possible scenarios.

1– there’s something clearly right to be doing (“doing work”) and something clearly wrong (“not doing work” – spending the workday on Facebook.) In this case, if you’re even slightly clear-headed, it’s clear that you should do the right thing. This is a non-problem. (AKA DONT BE USELESS. If I’m being useless, it’s probably symptomatic of some problem that needs addressing. Or, ideally, it’s because I just accomplished something so incredibly amazing that I needed to rest afterwards. This is currently very rare.)

2– suppose you learn to eliminate the bad habits like wasting all day on Facebook, which might have been a logical thing to do when stuck in NS with silly, pointless responsibilities that help nobody, that have no outcome, no benefit for anyone, etc. Okay, great. Now you can spend all your time doing work. (NO LONGER USELESS… BUT NOT VERY USEFUL EITHER.)

3- Even in the realm of “doing work”, there is urgent/important, important, urgent/unimportant, distracting busywork. I tend to spend most of my time shifting between urgent/unimportant and distracting busywork. Even after getting rid of most of my distractions, I’m not doing the important and urgent/important work that I ought to be doing. (FIRST THINGS FIRST.)

4- At a meta level, there is managing my own psychology and mental state. (SHARPEN THE SAW.) Important work and urgent/important work is usually also difficult work, and difficult work requires focus, clarity of mind. If I don’t have clarity of mind, I almost definitely default to doing useless busywork, or even outright distractions. I’m likelier to go on Reddit, Facebook, etc. Which is the worst thing of all.

How does one manage psychology, mental state, executive function? I’m reminded of Dr. Barker talking about ADHD, I should link to that video, revisit it, rewatch it. Things like exercise are critical. Accomplishing tasks– important ones, especially– also help. I cannot allow my executive functioning to drop below a certain level, because then all is lost. I should take immediate corrective measures– take a walk, eat something, watch a motivational video, sit and meditate for a few minutes and reorient myself. It might make sense to even go home and sleep. Whatever it is, staying online is almost always a bad idea.

I ought to really have this shit figured out super clearly. I ought to leave stickers for myself with very clear instructions, so that I can save myself. Come to think of it, I’m kind of like a diabetic or an asthmatic, only my weird condition of just giving up on everything is on the inside. Hopefully I haven’t given up too badly on anything recently, I haven’t damaged my own life and my relationships with other people too much. I need to teach myself how to medicate myself, and I should teach people close to me how to talk to me, what to tell me so that I can take care of myself and get more out of life.

I’m writing this while I’m on a plane, in the freaking atmosphere– and I’m just returning from 5 days in Cebu. I really needed the break. I should definitely take a lot more breaks in the future, because they refresh and rejuvenate me substantially. There are a few little things I could’ve done to improve my “rest hygiene”, like be more precise about my sleep, and maybe get a few more little niggling chores out of the way, but fuck it– I did what I could, and worrying about what I didn’t do then is a mere distraction from what I have ahead of me. I have significantly cleared some of the fluff and fuzz that was in my head. I will meditate. I will rehydrate. I will sleep early, and I will attack my biggest problems and concerns with as much ferocity as I can muster.

[1] Though… if you think about it, that’s one of the Habits of Highly Effective People. First Things First. Along with “be proactive” and “begin with the end in mind”. My boss would probably say that he tries his best to prioritize the most important thing at any given time, all the time. Shucks, I can’t even imagine what that’s like yet, but I imagine it involves far less anxiety than I currently live with.

I don’t always begin my vomits with the end in mind. I suppose I just keep going however I feel like going, and if at some point I feel like I really ought to start doing very desired-end-state writing, then I can start doing that. I suppose it would just quietly seep into my subconscious thinking. I don’t want to be too deliberate about these vomits. We’ll see.

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