Ahhhh… after a year of not working, adjusting, and recovering, I feel good. A couple of thoughts hit me after taking a “morning shower” at 2:30pm.
I perceive “boredom” as a quick way to express the desire for someone else to entertain oneself. My parents taught me this wonderful game when I was a kid called, “Go entertain yourself,” so, at this point, I’m rarely — dare I say never — bored.
Why has that struck me at this moment? I just texted a buddy to ask about his weekend plans are. I’m hoping to catch up with him to play some frisbee golf or go kayaking. Last night Dana and I went kayaking with Kelly, a former colleague of mine and Dana’s current colleague. Kelly also took over the department chair position from me.
As I run down a list of things I want to do — note that I say “want”, not “need” — there’s, of course, the default play some video games. There’s also some projects I’m in the middle of doing that I’d like to finish: an arigurumi turtle for Dana, some more glass pieces, painting a few miniatures, and the VHS and Blu-Rays have been waiting for me to finish. There’s a couple of projects I’d like to start: upcycling a patio table and set of chairs with a mosaic, weed through some boxes of old clothes. There’s some other things I’d like to get done: putting up peg board in the basement, finish organizing the garage after the final dump from the Racine house at this time last year. There’s also some straightening, dusting, vacuuming that could be done. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of frisbee golf, I’d like to do that a bit more, and I’ve already been out paddling more this year than all of last year (I think). I’d like to do some camping and take care of some yard work. I’m striving to write more. I want to shed about 40 pounds. Books to be read.
Never bored. My long-term “to do” list is still active. My short-term “to do” list fluctuates. My daily “to do” list ends up muddled.
Toward the end of summer break during the years of 2010 – 2013, I actually didn’t mind going back to work too much. I termed the feeling as “needing a break from myself”. Now, as Dana is finishing up the school year, and having summer break on my mind, I had a revelation of sorts.
One good thing that going to work did for me those years was reset my muddled “to do” list. The past couple of months I’ve been feeling lethargic and unproductive even though I’m getting stuff accomplished. I’m just not getting stuff accomplished at a manic pace (other than maybe the hours put into Xbox). I’m dawdling in a procrastinating manner, getting sucked into the Internet or staring at the walls for far too long working up the will to do something. When I start doing something, I feel like I should really be doing something higher on the constantly shifting priority list.
The days go by, and I spend more and more time procrastinating because the list of things to entertain myself is long, and the priority scale keeps shifting.
Going back to work at the end of August rebooted the system. Suddenly, that self produced list and scale of priorities got erased and replaced by “the beginning of the school year.” A couple of weeks of the only thing on the list and the only priority was setting the pace of the classroom. Anytime I thought of something I wanted to do, it was immediately dismissed as not being able to be considered until October. As October rolled around, I’d start adding things that I wanted to do in an order of priority of which thoughts popped up most frequently during September. By February, I needed a different sort of reset: restoring some balance of me time with the abundunt amount of socialization. I’d typically be mentally checked out of work at some point during May and focused on my personal “to dos” and priorities.
I think that’s what I’ve been facing over the last couple of months. I need a break from myself in order to reset my “want to do” list. But, without the external “need to do” focus and obsessing over to keep me actively engaged with something, I’m floundering, albeit comfortably, in a state of ennui. Anything accomplished is overshadowed by the ever growing unprioritized “to do” list that has blended “wants” and “needs” into a never ending bowl of soup. The taste of the individual ingredients are blended, muted, sufficient, comfortable, and somewhat unsatisfying.
Recognizing this poses an interesting, but now definable, challenge. How to reset the “to do” list without any external mechanism. I’m most productive when I obsess about something. So, I just need to pick something to obsess about to the point that I dismiss any other thoughts of “want to do” that pop up. One obstacle in doing that is the perception that the thing I choose will be viewed as “work.” “Work,” to me, is a perception of something that needs to be done, and, given the choice, I’d prefer to be doing something else.
That perception, of course, isn’t useful. I don’t want to prefer doing something else, and everything on my “to do” list is a want rather than a need. It’s difficult to pick something off of the list to fill that role. I suppose I could put household chores and yardwork into that category, but, here’s the thing: when I was working, those tasks would be dismissed as easily as any other. Not that I lived in filth, but the dusting, vacuuming, etc., would be pushed off until October. Giving a room a “good clean” is as much of a project to me as working on a cross-stitch, beading, or going to a movie.
Working out seems like an ideal task to fill that space; however, part of the “reset” was that there was a somewhat definable end. I won’t be able to accomplish losing 40 pounds in a month or two, then wean off of it. Exercising and changing my physical lifestyle is a whole different category of lifestyle change because it will be an entire shift of habit. A pattern that I can’t… that I can’t… that I can’t get into until I sort this other thing out. Why not? Why can’t I? I’m holding on to familiar patterns when I have the opportunity for a total paradigm shift.
Except that the demons I’m battling need to be defeated or caged up in a way that’s known to me. And that’s how another “want” gets added to my “to do” list. Okay… dismiss it right away. Paradigm shifts are not going to be successful at this point.
I was having a moderate level of success when I would give myself a list of things to accomplish for the week. I even found a phone app that keeps that list front and center in my view. But, for some reason, I’ve let it slide. I’d put somethings on it with a due date of “tomorrow” and others a couple of months out… why? Why? WHY?
There it is.
I’m scanning that to do list right now:
- Fixing license plate light — procrastinating it because — no good reason.
- Hooking up Wii — procrastinating it because — have to dig through a lot of boxes, not sure if we’ll actually use it to the extent it’s worth the effort.
- Imperial guard/e-web (painting miniatures) — procrastinating it because — want to be doing other things.
- Call Golden Hills — procrastinating it because — it’s hard, and I’m not sure what I expect as a resolution.
- Ice Maker — procrastinating it because — I don’t really know what I’m doing.
- Peg Board — procrastinating it because — laborous.
Now I’m seeing some issues with my thought. Some of those tasks will only take hours, some a day, others are multiple day endeavors. My proclivity to obsess on a task until completion or date isn’t well served by that incongruence.
Also, there are tasks that I do to keep my hands busy and unwind, so they aren’t really “projects” so to speak. They’re just something to do while watching TV. But, given the lack of need to unwind, I haven’t been absorbing as much television over the past couple of months. In fact, watching television and working on something has just become a project in its own right.
I have appreciated the long-term to do list that I came up with while suffering through the teaching, organizing, moving, adapting phase. I look at it every now and then. I tried to come up with a three-week schedule of a routine, but that was unsuccessful. I both like and despise routines. I like the routine of waking up and taking a shower; making sure I leave the house with keys, wallet, e-cig, nicotine gum, and carmex (and now manbag and water); taco salad made a certain way; movies viewed with popcorn and pink lemonade. I despise the routine of Monday doing X, Tuesday doing Y (or X again), Wednesday doing Z (or X again), etc. I’m not even too hip on the idea of Tacos every Tuesday, despite the fact that Tacos could be everyday.
I need a short term list to make sure the little things get accomplished. Trivial things that I’ll forget about without it being visible (like fixing the license plate light or swapping the laundry). For some reason, even though my brain is a swirl of “to dos,” there are some things that just don’t register as a priority in the least.
Yet, if I check off tasks on a short term to do list, that breaks the obsessive engagement I need in order to reset.
An idea of lessening the entropy is starting to form. I’m fairly certain that I can only have two active “projects” going on at a time. Currently, I have around six (glass work, miniatures, crochet, mosaic thoughts, two books, movie inventory). Along with that, I have things I want to do that break into project time (video games, kayaking, whatever Dana and I decide to do together). Sometimes those things get classified as a project themselves (such as playing the campaign of a video game or going camping). Other times they just pull me out of whatever I’m obsessing about depending on another person’s availability.
- Two major projects.
- Chair projects sometimes count as a project, other times they don’t.
- No routine like Tuesday is video game night, but allow for those type of sessions.
- A period of obsession when nothing else is a priority.
- How long?
- Is this where the two major project limit applies…
- Is this when I should impose the two major project limit and obsess until completion?
- How can I allow for new “to dos” if I commit myself?
- That’s why I need the period of obsession. New “to dos” get dismissed unless they continuously arise during the obsession period, then they get considered afterward.
- But that’s how my backlog has gotten created.
- And that’s what we’re trying to solve.
Ugh. I’m going in circles here and have successfully procrastinated away another day by writing this all out.
Start small. Clean up the short-term to do list on the phone by moving things I know I’m not going to accomplish in the next week to the long term list. Anything remaining on that short-term list MUST get done by the end of next week. That will be this upcoming week’s obsession. Worry about after that — after that.