Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Put First Things First

At 5 a.m. I sat on the edge of the tub trying to talk myself out of spin class. I love spin class. Where did this voice of dissension come from? It’s the one that convinced me to quit swimming a month before the move. It’s the one that’s talked me out of spin and into late-night third and fourth glasses of wine.
This morning as I sparred with it, I heard some truth in its final plea, “I am collapsing in upon myself,” it said to me.
Enter the Analyst
Stephen Covey’s  classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People suggests one habit, putting first things first, helps effective people prioritize everything. It helps them determine where to spend their time and evaluate if their time allotment is in line with their values. I do this exercise whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or off balance.

I write the following things on index cards: Dissertation, Find New Job, Fitness, HB, Cuk, Sell House, Buy New House, Move, Other People, Writing, Social Networking.
These are the things competing for my time.
I add: Current Job. Duh.
Then I try to put them in some kind of order. Here are the results:

Daily time allotment
Preparation for future
Fulfillment of existing obligations
Personal Fulfillment
Current Job (6 hrs)
HB (4 hrs)
Cuk (2 hrs)
Social Networking (2 hrs)
Find New Job (2 hrs)
Writing (1 hr)
Fitness (1 hr)

(less than ½ hr each):
Buy New House
Sell House
Move
Dissertation
Other People

Current Job
Find New Job
Dissertation
Sell House
Move
HB
Cuk
Other People
Social Networking
Writing
Fitness

HB
Cuk
Current Job
Fitness
Dissertation
Sell House
Other People
Social Networking

Cuk & HB
Fitness
Writing
Current Job
Social Networking
Move
Sell House
Buy New House
Dissertation



Then I try to make sense of what these results are telling me. I am prioritizing my family. I have several elements that need more attention to secure the future. I am meeting my current obligations even if I feel like it’s just barely. I am personally fulfilled by the top three uses of my time. That’s a good thing, right?
So What's the Problem?
I summon the voice of dissension.
“It’s the dissertation, isn’t it?” I bark at it.
“It’s been going on forever!” it wails. Even in the middle of a sprint on the bike in the room with the black lights and the music I can hear this wailing. Even when running. Especially when swimming.
How Did This Happen?
I feel sometimes as if I am being crushed under the weight of my own expectations. I’m not just anyone. I have purpose. I do more because I expect more.
On the tub this morning, I heard “cut yourself a break” and “be realistic” in support of stressing, of breaking, of quitting.
Then I heard Greg, my spin instructor, say, “nobody’s going to do it for you.”
Music swelled: it was the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s the 75 seconds Greg uses to get us to give everything we have. It’s the song HB and I have decided is really the only piece of music anyone ever really needs.
It tells us: do more, expect more.
I went to spin class. Even tied on a yellow bandanna that made me look like a pirate.
Right the Ship
Ten hours later I take another look at the time allotment category. I ask myself how I can re-organize it.
Ask for help: I can get Cuk to help with HB to free up a little time (1 hr).
Double-dip: I can reduce social networking to new-job and writing functions only; a five hour block reduced to 2.
Prioritize: I move dissertation up into the top section. I promise to be satisfied with a little bit every day.
Commit: I promise myself no more laying-out of workouts.
Put first things first and silence the voice of dissension. With Hans Zimmer if necessary.

1 comment:

  1. My sister in law "quit" her dissertation for about 6 months. Once she had been able to let it go, she regained focus and was able to finish it in only a few months. Maybe she just needed to show it who was boss.

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