Sometimes it’s cool how, when there’s a message you need to hear, it comes at you from more than one place, and shakes you about a bit and says “hey, listen to this!”
So this week, someone said something in a meeting that immediately made me think of something I’d heard in a podcast earlier in the week.
The podcast talked about the frustration you feel when you have a bunch of annoying things to do, little problems keep piling up, and you complain a lot and wish you were done with everything.
The first point the speaker made was that what’s frustrating you isn’t the fact that you have these problems but the mindset you’re bringing to them. If you’re continually annoyed and frustrated by little things, this is on you. You’re choosing to be upset by them and this is an attitude you (and only you) can change.
Furthermore, they went on, there will always be things to do. You will never be done with your to-do list, and you will never solve all of your problems. As soon as you fix one thing, there will be another thing to take its place. The to-do list keeps growing and you will never get it all done.
The question posed in the podcast, then, was whether you’d really want a life where there was literally nothing to do and no problems to be solved.
And even if you wanted it, it’s impossible. You can’t possibly solve all your problems and avoid getting any new ones. There will always be things to do and complications to deal with, and it shouldn’t surprise you when one arises. You’ll get sick, things will break, you’ll get stuck in traffic, someone will do something to piss you off. Expecting that none of these things will ever happen sets you up to be miserable when they do happen.
It goes back to the mindset that you bring to your problems and issues and your to-do list.
I thought it was an interesting and potentially more useful way to look at things when they start mounting up. That it’s unrealistic to expect that there will never be any new problems or additional things to do, and that getting annoyed or flustered about it isn’t going to make the problems go away or get the things done.
But thinking of the neverending to-do list also reminded of something I’d heard earlier in the week. I know I’ve been feeling overwhelmed recently and at one point did a massive brain dump of everything that was on my mind. Seeing the size of that list didn’t make me feel much better but at least it got everything out of my head. I know I’m never going to do everything on the list and, even if I did, the minute I finished, it, I’d think of something else to do.
But this person observed that we have a bunch of these lists: to-do, should-do, can-do, could-do, must-do . . . They said they had recognised the more they try to do, the less they actually get done, and had learned that what they need to focus on is their “true-do”.
I love that as a concept.
To be at peace with the fact that all the other lists will always be there, these things will never all get done, regardless of how hard you work or how frustrated you get, and that you need to focus on what really matters.
Actually putting this into practice is another matter entirely, but I feel like shifting my mindset is going to play a big part of it.
21 for 2021 update
So, making peace with the fact that I’m not going to get everything on my 21 for 2021 list done in the next six weeks, this was another week of not progressing very far with them.
I spent the weekend with my sister touring Hobart buildings as part of the Open House Hobart weekend and I have a bunch of photos to edit and blog posts to write for my photoblog (here’s the first one). I didn’t do any work on my mother’s story (thing 8) or Kramstable’s videos (thing 9), which are the two main things I have been trying to get done.
In Praise of Veg (thing 2)
I made Alice’s Feel Good Nachos (page 466-467 from In Praise of Veg) on Tuesday.
This recipe featured avocado, which obviously went into the guacamole to top the nachos. It was a simple nachos recipe made with roasted tomatoes, onions, corn chips, cheese and the guacamole.
I’d never made nachos this way before and it turned out brilliantly. Who needs beef or beans? I’ll be making this one again for sure.
Brainsparker (thing 17)
The next module of the gym* won’t be available until January, so I have done all the work on this program that I possibly can do I 2021.
So, while I technically haven’t finished the program, the goalposts have changed, and I’m going to call this thing done because I can’t do any more this year.
I was lucky to be able to take part in the live workout this week. These have been held every two months across the year, and I’ve missed most of them because the time zone differences have meant the sessions were at 3.00 am. I know I’m an early riser, but even for me, 3.00 is just not doable. This week, however, because of daylight saving ending in the UK and starting here, the workout was at 5.00 am, which is a time I’m capable of getting up at.
I feel like I’ve missed getting to know the other group members by only having been to one of the sessions but it didn’t really matter. I was still able to participate and learn from them, and to share my own experiences.
21 for 2021 summary
Things completed this week: 0
Things completed to date: 4 (1, 11, 18, 20)
Things I progressed: 2 (2, 17)
Things in progress I didn’t progress: 9 (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 17)
Things not started: 5 (3, 12, 15, 19, 21)
What didn’t go so well / What do I want to do better next week?
I listened to a podcast from the photographer David duChemin, who talked about life returning to “normal” as we make our way out of the pandemic. (A Beautiful Anarchy Episode 75: More than Time)
David said that during the pandemic, when he wasn’t able to do all the things he normally did and wasn’t overwhelmed by the demands of his pre-pandemic schedule, he’d found himself with a lot more space to read, and think and breathe. He had slowed down and observed that this had been a good thing for his creative life.
He posed the question, “How do we keep hold of what we learned as we start to go back to our old routines?” How do we keep hold of what we gained from having that space, rather than losing it to the “busyness” that comes from the old demands being placed on our time?
I found myself nodding enthusiastically as he noted that a 60-minute task doesn’t take 60 minutes. A task will take the 60 minutes you’ve allocated to it, and the 30 minutes either side of that time slot as well, along with the time you need to think about it before you do it and reflect on it (he said “dwell on it”, I was being more positive ha) once you’ve finished it.
He said, “my emotional and mental resources get tapped out well before my time resources”, and observed that there may be times he has three hours free and he has activities that would take three hours to do but his ability to focus on those tasks is long gone.
He recognised that he needs to find ways to create more generous “buffers” so that his focus, his attention and his mental energy can be replenished. He said it’s not enough to have time to do things. If we want to do our best work, we need to be fully there too.
This is so true and I know some days lately it’s taken all of my mental energy to just get myself to the point where I’m ready to start work on the 60-minute-task-that-takes-longer-than-60-minutes. I know I’m not fully there and I’m not doing my best work as a result.
It’s something I’m working on.
What I’m reading this week
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont
Days I went for a walk in the morning (Goal = 7): 7
Days I did my morning planning routine at work (Goal = 4): 0
Days I did my post-work pack up routine (Goal = 4): 0
Days I worked on my art (Goal = 2): 5
Days I read a book (Goal = 7): 7
Days I did yoga stretches (Goal = 7): 0
Days I had a lunch break away from my desk (Goal = 5 work days): 5
Days I went for a walk or did other physical activity in the afternoon (Goal = 5): 5
Days I shut my computer down before 9.30 (Goal = 6): 7