Two words: starting tasks.
I share your pain if these words present a vision of tedium. Seeing as the words you see now are a result of my starting a task (i.e blogging), it seems apt to present this topic as a second post.
With the exception of sinking into the sofa and watching TV, living a life is all about applying oneself to do the more demanding tasks; this is not something which a TV super-fatty can claim to have achieved, but anybody can learn to do it, just like any other skill. it requires discipline and funnily enough, lots of practise! Once the task is started it’s usually strangely enjoyable. Cutting the grass turns into a pleasant day in the sun, cleaning the kitchen leaves you with a clear conscience, and filling in tax return – okay that is still boring but endurance is different from willpower and will be covered in another post.
An interesting analogy is a spinning wheel. At first it is difficult to move, anyone who has used a foot-pedal operated spinning wheel will understand. Once given an initial, difficult push in the right direction, it spins freely and with very little effort; not only that, but after a surprisingly short amount of time plenty of thread has built up on the spool which comes as a very pleasant surprise.
The wheel in its stationary form is likened to a reluctance to perform tasks. A force, (represented by the push on the spinning wheel) is likened to an outside influence. This is motivation. It can be internal (the will to fill out the best tax return possible) or external. ( a nasty financial charge if filled out wrong). Whatever the nature of the motivation, it ultimately leads to a spinning wheel; this is you doing a task. And just like the spinning wheel, once it starts it’s easier to keep going. Thread building up quickly on the spool is an analogy to just how much you get done when you apply yourself. You could even weave something out of that thread to get a tangible reward.
This is what happens with yours truly, and probably with you the reader. The challenge of course is getting the wheel started, and managing to input just enough effort to maintain a steady rhythm. Enough about me though, here are some golden rules. They’re only introduction, and all “chapters” will be expanded in subsequent posts.
- Don’t do too much.
Now this can seem contradictory, after all isn’t the whole aim of this article to help you to get more stuff done? This is where most people fall down, trying to hit the ground running. How many people do you personally know who had the following new year’s resolutions? Maybe you are one of them?
“I’m going to lose weight”
“I will spend more time with my kids”
“I must study 4 hours every night”
How many people do you know have managed to sustain doing homework for 4 hours every night? Or who have actually lost 2 stone in one month? Hmm I thought so. Should you aim to exercise every day, should you aim to learn a second language in your spare time, and maybe start playing a musical instrument as well; it is not likely you will succeed. It’s too much. Willpower alone is not enough to sustain such a rapid change of lifestyle. Additions to a routine have to accumulated gradually, so that they become ingrained in the habit-making areas of the brain.
2. Ask yourself: “Is this really necessary?”
I mean, is this really necessary. Watching repeats of “Friends” with Matt “how you doin’” Le Blanc, is clearly less necessary than arranging an MOT. More fun certainly, but the importance of keeping a car legal cannot be denied. Ask yourself the question every time you start doing something you enjoy. Perhaps only for a week (remember rule number one?) and after this very short amount of time this behaviour will become habitualised; to the extent that it will feel strange NOT to ask yourself the question.
The constant ringing of the question in your head will be an inspiration, reminding you of the message behind it.
3. Remove distractions.
Anyone using a computer for work, will understand that after not so long, windows containing news websites and online “Bejewelled” become oh so clickable. This is where will-power needs to be exercised, and only practise can lead to success. Will power means turning the TV off immediately, it means quitting BBC iplayer and putting it on the list of blocked websites, it could even mean unplugging your computer and putting the cord in the Attic.
Extreme cases can call for the intervention of other family members. Consider asking your family to hide your computer power cord. Whilst looking for it you could think of lots of constructive tasks to do.
4. Get more sleep.
Owing to the enormity of this topic it could fill a blog by itself. Getting more sleep is something that affects almost everyone. And its so naive to believe it doesn’t matter. Even half an hour extra per night can have enormous impacts on general well being, on happiness and therefore productivity.
5. Do it to completion, not perfection.
A drive for perfection, can often grind against completion. A half completed but otherwise perfect song, is of no value to anyone. On the contrary a completed song however bad, will still pull sales and make money. James Blunt for example, still makes money. (For those not in the know, its a very British tradition to hate James Blunt, he’s not so bad in retrospect)
There is a happy medium between the two extremes of the spectrum. This medium can be referred to as polishing or tweaking. Yes, do polish, but do not perfect. The ones who are tempted to polish pieces of work, who wish to complete any task to the best it can be, are often the very people who do not want to admit to themselves the possibility of failure. To them, if it cannot be perfected it should not even be within a passing glance. On the BBC’s program “Freak Like Me”, featured was a man who would spend a day washing his car. We are not talking about an hour with a sponge, or even two hours to include a hoover, we’re talking the works. Anything he doesn’t do to make his car cleaner, shiner, smoother etc isn’t worth doing; to the extent that it would interfere with his personal life. The car is top priority over girls, food, even funerals.
Even though he goes to this much trouble, there will still be people to find fault in his work. That’s because people are a bell curve. Most people are somewhere in the middle, a few will be higher or lower than average, and a select few have extreme views. Its a pattern that crops up in everything in statistics, from how many pints of milk people drink in a year to the number of lovers. Most have 10-20 in a lifetime, some have none, a few have 200. This will go for any creative venture also, film reviews follow the pattern, books and TV shows, games, food items and many more. Whatever is completed it is inevitable that someone will find fault with it.
The bottom line would be that the cherries come with stones. To pretend that some cherries don’t have stones is a fantasy, because although you can’t see the stone until you bite into the cherry, it’s pretty much a certainty. Should you ever want to remove the stones before the eating, be aware that there are 200 cherries in a typical bag; it will take a long time, and this shows up as perfectionism. If you simply eat the cherries and spit out the stones, sure you get some obstacles, but ultimately you have more chances to savour the sweet sweet flesh within. Apply this thinking to your daily life, and take note of any changes in your work and home life.
This is but a short introduction to the topics. Make sure to check back for full articles and posts, plus a larger variety of subjects. Self help, food, games and finance will all be covered in rotation.