Discover more from Dancing Monkeys
How To Get Out Of A Rut
You make longer and longer to do lists. You commit to them the night before with fervour. You are ambitious at sundown, aiming to be up before the sun, but then the sun is up, you’re alarmed awake, you’ve reached for your phone and oh dear. It’s time to go to sleep already and the last thing you remember is reaching for your phone. That’s lie. You don’t even remember that. What you do remember is that the work you had planned for the day didn’t get done. In the end, you had to invent an item that you actually did, which didn’t need doing, just so you could have something to cross off.
You see, you know what you want to do, and you even followed the advice on getting yourself to do what needs to be done when you don’t feel like doing it in this earlier post, but somehow, still, you have ended the day having done nothing, and it’s been this way for weeks. You’re beginning to ask yourself, “Am I done? Is this it?”
Good news. There are still some useful tools in the kit. Let’s explore three, very briefly today. I won’t number them.
Your mind is full of everybody else’s crap. You are blocked up, and your brain’s attentional centre, hijacked by notifications, distractions and dopamine-jacking activities has shrunk so that you can barely read a paragraph of anything without you losing focus and skipping. The quality of your life, and your perception of its quantity is determined by the quality of your attention. How do we get our attention back? We train ourselves to focus. Focus is a learnable skill. How do you develop this skill? Mindfulness practice. I’m not going to explain it, you just need to know that some of the most successful people in the world wouldn’t, couldn’t function without some kind of mindfulness practice. Never mind all the benefits, the one you want is your attention centre expanding, because that will allow you to handle more strain than the discipline required to read a paragraph, and let’s face it, you will not function successfully in this world without this skill. In a world full of utterly distracted people, focus is a superpower.
Declare ToDo bankruptcy. Rip it up. You haven’t done any of that stuff anyway. It’s just become a pile of shame like every other digital list in your life. Just get rid of the digital stuff and order a pack of 5” x 3” index cards. Every day, write the day and date at the top, and I want you to write just one thing you are going to work on that day, list your appointments for that day (if any), add your own guiding message, this can be a quote, or a principle you want to remember, or some words of inspiration from a loved one and that’s it. Keep the card with you all day and do nothing else, bar that one thing. You are simply to avoid everything else. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, well that’s a start. I’ve been using 5” x 3” index cards throughout my working life.
Finally, my favourite technique is to start the day fast, and then make it a game to keep the pace up. Move your body with purpose. Keep a done list and just keep adding things you’ve done to that list. Your aim is to make that done list look ridiculously big at the end of the day and I want you to list the smallest activity as an achievement. Why does this help? Well, you are beginning to get more aware of how you’re spending your time, you are recording what you’ve done so that your day hasn’t disappeared in a haze, but most importantly, and this is critical, you are developing momentum! It’s much easier to do what needs to be done if you’re already moving, than from a standing start. Newton and bodies at rest. Can’t argue with physics!