0560 – figure out what you care about

I want a lot of different things and care about a lot of different things, both to varying degrees at different times, in different contexts.

The problem, or challenge, is that life requires prioritization.

If I try to do everything all at once, nothing gets done.

Even worse is when I’m denial about this fact, and I get anxious about it, and get into a Sylvia Plath type melancholy about constantly losing all the parallel lives- distracting from taking action.

A third suboptimal approach- trying to muscle my way out of it through sheer force of will. Insisting and demanding a ridiculous amount of output from myself, leading inevitably to some sort of crash or burnout. This failure is caused by me refusing to learn the truth about how my body and subconscious (inner child or whatever) work, and what their needs and capacities are. They invariably protest with illness or depression or something and then we’re in a dysfunctional parent/child standoff.

So, all of those outcomes are pretty shitty. There has to be a better way.

First, I need to know how much I can actually get done.

It’s a little pathetic that I haven’t properly measured this so far- probably because I’m afraid of what the results will show me. I keep trying to hold on to this illusion that I can get lots of stuff done and that there will be a magical day where my internal genius will show up and get a phenomenal amount of things done.

The painful truth is that there’s no such genius. It’s a wishful fantasy. Everything is just the slow accumulation of daily gruntwork. And so I need to measure the volume of daily gruntwork I can do.

Secondly I need to schedule my recreation in advance.

I try to pretend to myself that I can get by without it, and that I can just keep working non-stop and get to a point of some sort of surplus, and then relax afterwards. I have been testing that hypothesis probably for a couple of years now and I have to conclude that it doesn’t work. More embarrassingly- I still indulge in some dark playground nonsense as I’m working. There are probably a bunch of reasons for this- the main problem I think is just that I don’t segment and separate things properly enough. I should separate work and play more deliberately, and be rid of fuckarounditis.

Third, I need to practice prioritising and scheduling every single day. I keep trying to squeeze lots of stuff into every day, and end up making not a lot of progress. Again it feels like I’m trying to preserve some self-gratifying illusion I have about myself and my capabilities.

A thing I really need to remind myself of is that I can’t bullshit myself. If I haven’t done the work, I get anxious and stressed on the inside and there’s no point trying to get better at hiding it. I need to pay attention to it and address it.

My impulse for distraction is hideously strong. I wonder if I should try to redirect it instead of trying to hide it. Right now I’m working and when I feel the impulse to hit Facebook, I’m switching to Evernote to continue on this word vomit. I wonder if that could work. We’ll see. Back to work.

Went to bed and woke up and now I’m on the way to work. I just spent a few minutes going through my work tasks, planning work day. Now I have about an hour to write before I get to office. I sometimes- no, often- spend this time checking social media. I suppose I’m always looking for petty distractions to avoid thinking about hard or uncomfortable things.

But the hardest and most uncomfortable thing in life is being stuck in a crappy pattern and not seeing a way out, just running in circles without hope or excitement for tomorrow. And so there’s a decision to be made- which flavor of pain do you want? “No pain” is not an option, and complaining and whining about that fact doesn’t make the pain go away.

I think I’ve recognized the situation for some time but I’m only finally beginning to accept that I can’t whine or cry my way out of this one. The problem doesn’t go away when I close my eyes, look away, distract myself and so on. And that has been my primary coping mechanism throughout my life, I think. If I’m not looking at it, it isn’t there. And everything eventually goes away if you hide long enough. But I can’t hide from myself, I can’t hide from the entire world.

Okay. So to move forward I need to change a lot about myself. I need to accept in advance that this change will be uncomfortable and painful. But I have some precedents for doing that. It was painful to start squatting with weights, but I did it anyway and I loved it. It’s a little painful to write and publish imperfect things but I have a history of doing that. I want to get more surgical, more precise, and that’s a skill that I can learn. I’m only 25. I still have the capacity to learn new things and develop new skills, and right now I’m going to learn how to take control of my time and schedule. It’s just like playing starcraft or some fighting game. I’ve gotten better at those things. I’ve definitely become a better writer, a sharper thinker. That comes from practice and reflection, in a consistent, sustainable way.

Okay, I’m reaching work now. I’m going to eat, and then I’m going to plan my day, and chunk it up, and measure my progress on what I’m doing, focus on one thing at a time. I can do this. C’mon!
EOD Review: That was a pretty good day. I planned my day fairly well. I had several productive hours, and shipped things. If every day were like today, I’d be doing pretty well. I was a little tired and did have a couple of little distractions but I think it was more than reasonable. Now to head home, write another vomit, and rest well so I can work hard tomorrow.

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