Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Twisted Thrill of the Urgent

Back in high school, my guidance counselor noted on my profile that I seemed to work best under pressure -- that I was in fact happier when I was stressed out. She was correct. There's always been something about an impending deadline that's shifted me into high gear and motivated me to kick butt, be it for an assignment at school, a PowerPoint presentation at work, or a marathon cleaning frenzy right before visitors arrive at my condo. Name any task, chore or errand, and I've always preferred to handle it when it reaches Critical Mode, and not one moment sooner.

But while there's something to be said for the adrenaline rush that comes from tackling an urgent task, I'm now at the point where I feel like EVERYTHING has become urgent, and it's my own damn fault. I do everything just in time. What's worse, I seem to have lost the ability to ease back into a more leisurely routine. I'm consciously putting things off because they're not "due" yet and I've got too many other pressing matters to take care of... but those pressing matters are only pressing because I neglected to deal with them at an earlier point in time. I'm caught in a vicious cycle.

Take today's looming chore, for example: gathering all of the documents for my tax return. As a freelancer I get to expense certain things related to my writing business. If I had kept a running list of all of those charges as 2010 rolled on, I wouldn't be sitting here on this sunny Saturday with mountains of cash receipts and credit card statements to rifle through for hours, just weeks before the return is due (I used to get all of this done in early February, at the latest).

The question now becomes, "How do I get out of this habit?" How can I get back to the point where I'm tackling errands and To Dos as they saunter in, rather than waiting until the situation's become desperate?

I have a plan that I'm hoping will work, and it's pretty simple. I just need to make a schedule for myself, every day. I literally have to write down what I will do every single hour between 9 AM and, say, 8 PM... and then stick to it. It's worked for keeping up with this blog for the past few weeks -- I basically just told myself that I was going to dedicate some time to writing every morning while I'm drinking my tea. So I have hope this trick can work for all of the other things I need to do as well. Basically I'm trying to fool myself into thinking things are urgent because I'm "assigning" them to myself, if you will. Silly, perhaps, but at this point I don't care. Because the thrill is gone, my friends. I'm sick of always being under the gun and am no longer at my best when I'm pressured. Now I just feel stressed (in a bad way) and OVER IT. I am desperate to get to a point where I can read a book or go shopping or just do nothing and not feel guilty about it because there are 2,000 urgent things I've put off that should be getting my attention instead.

I'll provide a progress report in a few weeks and will be brutally honest about how my new schedule and rules are working out. (And yes, I'm very conscious of the fact that publicly promising to write about my success or failure should hopefully further motivate me to embrace the move out of Overwhelmed Land.)

Wish me luck! And if any of you have any tips that might help, I'm all ears...

- e

No comments: