Forcing Your Fingers

Let me start by saying that it's not always easy working from home. There are far more distractions than one would realize. Interruptions from office co-workers are not nearly as loud as interruptions from dogs. And one's mood is directly related to the weather (Rain = sad Keith. Sun = happy Keith.)

But the hardest part of all is that you are responsible for structuring your day. Most of the time, no one is demanding anything from you. All that free time you dreamed off when you were shackled to a cubicle somehow gets greedily eaten up by invisible monsters. The end of day arrives and you can't always point back to what you accomplished, though you have the vague impression that you were busy.

This past week, I started to pin-point where I was faltering in a few fronts and the most accurate description I can come up with is "feeling like it". It started happening pretty clearly a few weeks ago while going to the gym. I had my gym bag. I was walking to the gym. And I was overwhelmed with a feeling of "I don't feel like going to the gym today". The feeling was string enough that I said to myself "That's okay. Going to the gym should not be torture. Instead, I'll go for a really long walk to get some exercise." While I still stand by that I didn't want to torture myself, I set a bad precedent. All of a sudden "not feeling like it" became a legitimate reason to do or not do something. My diet started slipping (because I felt like having a piece of chocolate). I stopped going to the gym altogether (because I was waiting until I felt like going to the gym).

So last week, I realized that this insidious little notion had slowly wrecked a lot of things in my life. I was waiting for some imaginary wave of motivation to sweep through before I did anything. And as a result, nothing was moving forward in my life.

Then this morning I ran across the following "podcast with John Hodgman": in which he discusses the nature of procrastination and how to get over it. It boils down to physically forcing your body to go through the motions – in his case, making his fingers start typing until his creative mind takes over. But don't take my brief summation as the only take-away in this podcast. He gets very specific about the creative process and the procrastination process. And he's funny. it's well worth the 10 minutes it takes. Besides, if you're reading this, you're probably looking for a distraction from your main work.

So this was buzzing through my head as I went to the gym this morning and I realize how much I operate under the notion of motivation or non-motivation. It's ridiculous. If there was something I was having a hard time getting motivated about, my answer was to try to mentally list reasons that would psyche me into getting the work done. My inner cheerleader was trying to rouse my inner sourpuss off the sofa and it rarely works. I think a far more effective strategy is to remove all the emotion and expectation from the situation and just physically go through the motions. I don't have to mentally prepare for anything. I don't have to be psyched or motivated or happy or anything. I just have to be present and doing the work. It's all very Buddhist.

So that's my new mantra.

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I just finished reading a book called "Pomodoro Technique Illustrated" by Staffan Nöteberg ( I guess it's a little premature to say that it's changed my life, but in my first week of truly implementing the method, I find myself on Thursday and have already accomplished more than I had mentally apportioned to get done for the whole week. A couple of months ago, I had read the free PDF by the original author and decided to test it out, but in typical fashion I sort of did it half-ass.
I know a lot of people that have had a really bad 2017. Myself included. I am genuinely excited about 2018. I don't expect that circumstances will necessarily be great (Trump is still president), but I feel like I'll be great regardless of the circumstances. Here's my plan.