As my letters to Ang elucidated (I really think “hallucinated” would work well here too), many things have fallen by the wayside for me this last month. It’s not just writing, but reading, eating, and exercise. Nothing has gone insanely off the rails, but I haven’t been keeping an eye on my life and I let self-maintenance slip. The best way to realign myself is a full system reboot.
For me, step one is to always accept the loss and move on. Nothing I do today is going to take back the over-snacking or lack of writing that has occurred over the past thirty days. All I can do is move forward.
I also know that doing an inventory of self is the best way to refocus myself. This occurs in several parts.
It usually starts with a personal check-in with myself (I totally sidelined the journal/diary debate). It’s usually blunt and to the point: “Hey, Dave. What’s up? How you doing? Why so lazy? Get your crap together and get back at it.”
This usually leads to listing my important goals, the things I know I’ve let laziness, distraction, or fear derail. They are a part of the daily habits I try to cultivate on a regular basis, like writing eating healthy, or exercise. It also starts charting what I need to get back to them.
I also end up doing a task list for the day-there’s no way I can get back to focusing on big term goals when I have fires burning in the present. I already have a running task list but at some point, I’ve derailed from it, so this always helps me start reintegrating into my day.
Lastly, I create a list of small focus items that I feel I need to reduce (like chocolate) or increase (like drinking more water).
The worst thing for me is the crippling laziness or fear that doesn’t help get me back in the game, so I need to bargain (or trick) myself into doing things. I’ll do this in two ways.
First, small blocks of time. When writing is good, I can blast through three or four hours easy. When I’m starting out, I commit to an hour but break that into 15 minute blocks, with at least 5 minute breaks in between.
Second, no heavy lifting. That first hour is like a warm up. I may read the same page a couple of times and do a little editing until I find the rhythm of the piece again. Or, if I’m exercising, I start with small weights, just to get back into the habit of showing and doing the work.
Third, not everything at once. If I try and do it all in one day, the more chance I’ll fail. Sometimes it’s easier to do it once part at a time. Nevertheless, if I try for it all in one day, I need to accept some items don’t get done. Finally, rebuild old habits. I know if I can show up, do the small bits a few times and keep at it over a week, then I’m slowly moving myself forward again. By building a pattern of habit, momentum will eventually keep me going.
The most important thing for me is to not let myself get discouraged when I do fall off the rails. It happens (it’s hard not to) but I have a wife who always kicks me in the ass with always the right words.
Yet, slack time is recovery time, as well as daydream time and “living my life” time. It’s in the quieter moments that I can fill the well. That way, when all hell breaks loose, I’m ready to take on the work, because when I’m busy, I’m happy.
This is the challenge: being busy can’t always equate to being productive.
For me, downtime needs to happen. Overworking leads to a breakdown in communication with myself. Things will go off the rails and I’ll have to do a reboot. The key is integration and moderation, building into the system moments to pause, listen, and reflect on the next steps of what I do.