0528 – break things down

Sometimes it feels like there are gaps in my reasoning or gaps in my understanding of my own behavior.

Why am I not writing everyday? Excuse– I got distracted, I don’t feel like writing, I’m not in the mood, I don’t have time. Reality– if it’s important to me, I should make it a priority. I should set aside the time for it. I don’t currently do this with much intensity. I sometimes write on my commutes but I seldom finish an entire vomit unless it’s something really pressing on my mind. But when I sit down to think about it, I often find myself deciding that my daily writing habit should be the most important thing in my life, because I know that writing is going to be the most important skill that I develop. So I need to reduce distractions, make the time, make the mood. What gets me in the mood for writing? I just need to remember that I love writing. Read good writing. If I read everyday, I’ll be writing more. If I revisit the things that frustrate me about bad writing every day, I’ll be writing more. So it’s largely about managing my triggers and cues. If I’m serious about writing I’ll assemble writing cues around me so that I write more. I’ll make it a sacred part of my daily routine. So I should do that. I’m writing right now, so that’s good. What about tomorrow? When I wake up tomorrow, chances are I’m going to be thinking about work. But if I wake up early I should set aside a few minutes just to get some writing in.

Next question.

Why have I not done tasks that I say that I want to do? Excuses– I got distracted. I don’t have time. I don’t have energy. Everything from the Procrastination Matrix– it seems like the payoffs or penalties are far away. The tasks seem scary and insurmountable. I don’t see myself being able to do and finish the task at hand. So I avoid it, run away from it, hide from it.

Perhaps I should break things up into chunks. Before I can do something, I have to face it. So maybe I should make it a daily habit to face my tasks, before I can make it habit to do them. While re-reading the Power of Habit, I came across this part where a therapist was advising a chronic nail biter. The first step wasn’t to try and stop biting her nails. It was to simply keep track of all the instances in which she found herself tempted to bite– whether or not she actually went through with it. Similarly, it was interesting to read Allan Carr’s Easyway to Quit Smoking and find that he recommended that readers smoke the entire time that they’re reading the book, as long as they still feel like doing it. I think in all cases the idea is not to get caught up trying to fix the problem before you’re even clear about what the problem is. Getting stressed and anxious about a problem being unsolved makes it EVEN HARDER to solve it.

A lot of it is about managing your energy and stress levels. Being able to conceptualize of a problem as something that isn’t scary, something that isn’t going to ruin your life – although technically it might very well ruin your life if you DON’T do something about it… we try talking about these things in the light of rationality and awareness, but the problem is that these things happen when we aren’t paying attention, when we aren’t so alert, rational, aware. We have to admit that we’re powerless, be comfortable with that, and then surrender entirely to a process. AA suggests surrendering to God. I think usually the important thing is to surrender to constant accountability. To supervision. To be forced to be mindful and to pay attention to what’s going on. It starts with small chunks– paying attention to what happens for 20 minutes, then an hour, then several hours. I haven’t actually learned to do this effectively yet. I still have large swaths of time that pass everyday without me being super-cognizant of what’s going on. This is horrifying when I really think about it. It means I’m not really living my life. Of course, from my brain’s point of view, I’m just conserving energy. If it’s not critical, if it’s not life-threatening, why waste energy?

But we no longer live in a world where energy is extremely precious. Energy is kinda abundant in a practical sense, for individuals. We can eat. We can rest. We can exercise. We can get a lot more energy than we think w can. Than I think I can. I can do more than my subconscious believes.

Uh, I’m getting distracted here. Why am I not doing hard, scary, insurmountable, complex tasks? Because I’m not breaking them down into simple, manageable, step-by-step tasks. Why don’t I do that? Well I do that sometimes, but it’s a new habit and I haven’t gotten very good at doing it. I just need to practice it more. My personal trello board is a great place to do this and I have been doing this. I have been breaking things down into manageable components and getting them done. And I have been lifting more weight, and generally (very generally) sleeping and waking earlier. These are all good things. I just need to keep doing them, with more frequency and more intensity. If something works, accelerate it (within measurable, manageable levels).

Break things down. Break things down. A million miles begins with a single step. A million words begins with a sigle word. This is 528,000+. If I did this a couple more times, we’d be at 53% completion. That’s not too shabby. I just need to break things down into smaller, simpler steps. It’s not “excess work”, it’s critical work. This is how everything is going to be, so I gotta get down to it.

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