Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Discipline of Not Doing

NOT doing is one of the disciplines I and my clients seem to struggle with.

I have something that needs to be done! Why can’t I just do it NOW!

I personally feel this impulse when the things on my current to-do list don’t excite me. Often, this lack of excitement is a result of the task being in that dreaded dip. The grinding part where I am too far from the start to stop and too far from the goal to see it. The part where I just have to suck it up and do the work for the sake of the work.

I also encounter this feeling when I find I suddenly have some slack. The temptation to fill that slack with more work is great.  Particularly in our hustle/grind/just do it environment. Being busy allows me to avoid more uncomfortable activities, such as self-reflection. 

“Busy” is a badge of honor.  We can justify busy to others.  Reflecting and integrating looks a lot like “doing nothing” and, therefore, is much harder to explain.

Filling the slack, or starting another “new” thing when I have other things to do, is hazardous.

The “new” thing invariably takes more time, energy, and resources than initially predicted. “This will be quick” is a signal that I am about to lose focus on the important things I need to be doing.

The “new” thing still leaves all the “old” things unfinished; noshing away at my cognitive load and energetic resilience.

The “new” thing adds to the workload. It only takes 1 or 2 “new” things and the unfinished “old” things to find myself suddenly over-worked and stressed.

Occasionally, I get impatient because I have a thing that I know needs to be done in the future. My ego wants to “get ahead.”

Another warning that I am about to go off track is the voice that says, “If I get this done now, I’ll be ahead of the game.”  This voice has caused me more work than any other voice I have in my head.

Certain activities need to happen in a certain order. For example, if I decide to do a rewrite of a chapter while the chapter is out for review and before I have received the feedback, I’ve just doubled my workload. I will still need to do the rewrite.

The discipline of finishing what I have started and staying focused on what I need to do right now is, for me, one of the most challenging disciplines I practice. 

It requires saying “not yet” to great ideas and opportunities – some of which may pass me by.

It requires having faith that the work I am currently doing will result in a positive outcome.

It requires being OK with not “getting ahead” of my tasks.

It requires being OK with giving myself some slack when I am blessed with it.

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