Done vs. Doing

© Photographer: Kondor83 | Agency: Dreamstime.com
Royalty Free Images

The word “done” was a nice heavy sound to it, like the sound of a door closing solidly behind you. Some people find this word satisfying and enjoy the clarity of turning off the lights as they head out the door. Others find the word “done” intimidating, like it might be the start of the word “Dungeon”, and completing a big project is as welcome as being tossed in with a crust of bread and a little water. A project in progress is exciting and energetic. There are friends and colleagues to keep up to date, things are happening! To check off a project is to let go of that energy. It can be scary to think that once a task or project is done, you might not know what to start on next.

One form of procrastination, fretting and foot dragging can soon take hold in this scenario. In one example, you might imagine your response to the question, “Do I really want to retire?” Perhaps you would begin to feel nervous rather than happy and excited. What would you do instead?

On a smaller scale, this is what some people face each time they decide that they are done with a task or project. They might ask of themselves: Am I really done? Is there more effort needed? Is it perfect enough? Can’t I just keep doing this? Is there some part of this that I still enjoy and want to do? What if this is not working for me? What else could I do?

Many of these questions can be valid ways to tackle change. They are good launching pads for making adjustments, or for starting in on something entirely different that might work out to be better. They can be useful self assessments when looking at the big picture. On the smaller scale, though, if finishing up any task causes a similar moment (or more) of hesitation, it quickly deteriorates into a less useful behavior of self doubt, fussing and inaction that can cut into your productivity and enjoyment of life.

One way to improve your mindset about moving from one project to the next is to visualize that checking off a project is simultaneously closing a door and lifting the sash of a window. It happens immediately and effortlessly. When you check off a project, that feeds back into the rest of your situation. Whenever anything is done, it is time to prioritize everything else that remains. Gently shift your attention among other tasks on your list that contribute to other projects. Lift up the next items on your to do list to match your desired focus for how you want to spend your time. You’ll spend less time wondering if what you are doing is what you intended. You’ll be less uncertain about whether or not you are on track to reach long time goals. This means less flailing, less reluctance to complete a project, more of what you meant to do in the first place. More tinkering with how to make stuff happen. More acceptance of changing situations. More flow among your projects, and yes, more “done” over the long term. Shift your thinking to step from project to project in a continuum of activity. How unlike a simple check mark on a piece of paper! How unlike an ordinary to do list, where the check mark lands with a heavy clunk marking the end with a leaden “done” with no corresponding zip and vitality to motivate you on to the next beginning! Even when you reach a long term goal, you are not stuck. The next task or project is lined up eagerly waiting for you to bring its fresh energy forth! Completed tasks are not just “done” but continually sending you cheerfully forward to stay in alignment with the grander scheme of what you are “doing.”


Copyright @ 2010, Catherine E. White, permission is granted for this article to be redistributed and shared with others in its entirety as long as links and attribution are maintained.


Catherine E. White is president of Llamagraphics, Inc., developer of Life Balance™ software for Mac OS X, Windows, Palm OS and iPhone. Life Balance provides a structure for your goals, projects and tasks that is priority driven, so you can to make better decisions about how to use your discretionary time. To learn more, please visit http://www.llamagraphics.com/

A balanced look back at life in 2003… and forward to 2010

In May of 2003, “Smart Money” magazine ran an article by Chris Taylor called “Balancing Act.” I came across this article while clearing out my files, recently, and was struck especially by the implications of the first paragraph.

“First came the market correction. Now, the life correction. Overstressed and overworked, Americans are overhauling how they live, finding more time for themselves, and their families.”

He goes on to say after the market turmoil of 2003, that “things have changed.”

To which I say… oh, really?

Oh my goodness, here we are again!

I believe that stressful times are a good time to reevaluate what you are doing, and whether changes need to be made. There is more willingness to take on personal change if the balance of risk and benefit seem worthwhile. Most people are not willing to let go of the “good” to try for “great!” But, most people are willing to let go of “awful” to try for “better.” It is an easier decision to make.

For a lot of people, in good economy or bad, there are “awful” circumstances that must be overcome. When the economy is “awful” then the whole theme of balanced living stops being a personal journey and becomes (for a while) a trend worthy of some media attention or commentary.

However, for each person, it will always be a personal journey. You are not a trend, but you do have choices to make every day about what goals and tasks to pursue that are influenced by what goes on in the world. Every day, you get to decide where to put your time and energy. You decide what kind of work to do, when to rest, when to connect with other people, when to have fun.

The need for each person to make these decisions with thought and care is still the same as it ever was. When living is stressful, use that as a lever to lift your thinking. What else might be possible? Explore. You will be well on your way to taking action in a positive direction, and that is still what the whole balancing act is about.


Copyright © 2009, Catherine E. White, permission is granted for this article to be redistributed and shared with others in its entirety as long as links and attribution are maintained.


Catherine E. White is president of Llamagraphics, Inc., developer of Life Balance™ software for Mac OS X, Windows, Palm OS and iPhone. Life Balance provides a structure for your goals, projects and tasks that is priority driven, so you can to make better decisions about how to use your discretionary time. To learn more, please visit http://www.llamagraphics.com/

Paying Attention to your “Idiot Lights.”

Internet Access: Stuart and I working while we wait at the car dealership.

I am at the Audi dealership taking care of my car. It is nerve wracking as being alone, chilly, in a paper thin gown in the doctor’s office, knowing that my blood pressure is likely to be rising, Breathe, I think. Breathe.

My car is not new. It has over 100,000 miles on it, a few notable scratches and dings. It is not trouble free. It is nevertheless, not actually a clunker. It is a good car with reasonable gas mileage that works for what I need it to do. It is the car that I need right now to work reliably.

What has me hyperventilating is that my aging Audi station wagon has a small conspicuous yellow “check engine” light glowing from the dashboard. A check engine light is called an “idiot light” for a reason, and despite assurances that my car is drivable, that light makes me feel like an idiot every time I drive it. Who is to say that some other problem might not have developed in the meantime that could leave me stranded, or in a dangerous predicament? So, that light is a kind friend that I don’t want to brush off. That light is letting me know that the underlying problem must be fixed, because I don’t want to feel like an idiot anymore than is absolutely necessary.

However, sitting in the waiting room, while the car is up on the lift, I do not know what the repair will cost, in time or money, or hassles. I only know that it will be a lot less than if I ignore that yellow light.

It may seem obvious that living a balanced life is about what you do, and what you wish you could do. It is often less obvious to people that balanced living is also about what you don’t do, and what you might be tempted to ignore.

Many problems in life, that cause major hassles, headaches, and stress, do not have a flashing indicator on our dashboard. It would be a help if they did. There are many hassles that are completely avoidable if we don’t ignore the “idiot light.”

You can use your to do list as a tool, to add your own friendly “idiot lights” to those tasks that could cause you real trouble or heartbreak if you didn’t do them.

Some idiot lights to consider might be social. Remembering your anniversary, for instance. If you don’t do it, your spouse will make you feel like an idiot!

Others might be financial. Deposit your checks. Pay your bills. File your taxes. Save for retirement.

Then there are your heart’s desires, your long term goals. The things that take time, patience, perseverance to accomplish. This may be more than a “Bucket List” of things to check off. You should not be shy about giving a place on your list for those things which left undone would be truly profound regrets. The trip to Maine to paint by the seaside will need a way to leap from the dream realm over to the to do list through some scheduling, attention to materials, learning skills and technique, and the usual follow through to not forget to pack your toothbrush. As the project takes shape, you can add the tasks that are necessary next steps to to get it to happen too.

At the end of the day, a little routine maintenance, and some daily action on your long term goals, will leave you feeling smarter and happier than driving around ignoring the indicators.

What are those indicators? They are likely to be as unique as you are. Perhaps your best indicator of what to do next is when you are fidgeting in your chair watching the wind rustling the leaves in the trees.

It doesn’t really matter what form your indicator takes, as long as you recognize it for what it is — your very own check engine light letting you know that you have something to do that just can’t wait!

You may want to consider what causes your shoulders or stomach to tense up, thinking, “I’m too busy to think about it.” Chances are, you need to stop what you are doing, face it squarely, and think it through.

What makes you lie awake at night wondering, “Do I need to take care of that?” You probably will feel better once you take action on it.

Who do you miss? Give them a call. Sign up for Facebook or Twitter and reconnect.

What makes you sigh?… thinking “That would be so cool! Someday, maybe.”

Begin today.


Copyright © 2009, Catherine E. White, permission is granted for this article to be redistributed and shared with others in its entirety as long as links and attribution are maintained.


Catherine E. White is president of Llamagraphics, Inc., developer of Life Balance™ software for Mac OS X, Windows, Palm OS and iPhone. Life Balance provides a structure for your goals, projects and tasks that is priority driven, so you can to make better decisions about how to use your discretionary time. To learn more, please visit http://www.llamagraphics.com/

The balance between letting go, and holding on…

This morning, I trotted down the stairs to put in a load of laundry, innocently enough. Then after a little bit, I thought this llama could use a shower. So, I started up the shower, and no hot water was forthcoming from yon spigot.

Hmm. Something was awry. So I sent Stuart down to the basement to investigate, and he came running up the stairs in a flustered way as the washing machine hose had developed a bit of a geyser off of the right side, and was shooting water around the basement in a very wet way. There was a significant puddle across 80 percent of the basement floor. We shut off the main valve for the water to the house. We donned our boots and set about to making the floor less wet.

There were about 5 or 6 cardboard banker’s boxes on the floor. Mostly we have plastic bins, but these were the old ones, that we never bothered to move to plastic.

I quickly carried these up to the kitchen and dumped their contents out on the floor. Baci dog in a sympathetic way, came and gently pressed his cheek against mine as I stared at the assortment of notebooks, articles, old magazines and greeting cards. Then he lay down next to my thigh, uncertain how to offer additional canine help.

Among the things in these boxes were true valuables, family photos, acceptance letters from Wellesley, MIT. My grandmother’s handwriting on cards. The best recommendation letter ever written by J.C.R. Licklider for Stuart.

However, there was also real junk. Memos from Space Telescope to staff about the restriping of the parking lot, the bus schedule, picnics for astrophysicists with a desire to play baseball. Folders from the Human Resources department outlining benefits packages for jobs that I no longer have, and insurance companies that no longer exist. These were so easy to pitch out, that I practically laughed as I tossed them gleefully into the recycling bin.

Then there were two notebooks and several folders from a disastrous experience of graduate school at Johns Hopkins. These are full of problem sets that contain miserable little margin notes about how unhappy I was. The teaching assistant’s notes I made for my undergraduate students. The letter from the department saying that my “prelim” scores were so low that they did not think I would be able to get a PhD, and they were cutting my funding. (This after they had said that the first set of prelim scores would not count!) And my reply letter, which I hope I never sent, even though they richly deserved it.

And so I face a choice. Do I keep any of that stuff?

Why should I keep it? One reason might be to wave it about once I truly become a whopping big success. Ha Ha - see how wrong you were! Okay, that might never happen. Or to show to someone else… see you too can overcome someone telling you that your dream is over. And you can find another dream, or reclaim your dream in a whole new direction.

Why should I give it the old heave ho?! Well, the past is done. There is nothing more to do about it. The people there who were friends have fallen out of touch, and the people there who were vile, are probably still vile, retired, or long since dead. (Here’s hoping! *wicked grin*)

Is there some morsel of wisdom yet to be eeked out of this experience remaining?

Obviously, this set of paper still has some emotional kick to it. But is that enough to be worth holding on to it? Where is the balance between letting go and holding on?

Is it imperative to let paper become neutral (or wet) before getting rid of it? Or is it possible to let the very act of pitching it into the recycling, be the act that neutralizes it?

I’m willing to try it and see! Time to throw it out! :-)

By the way JHU - I have had WAY more fun in the meantime than you ever could imagine! Ha!


Copyright © 2009, Catherine E. White, permission is granted for this article to be redistributed and shared with others in its entirety as long as links and attribution are maintained.

Catherine E. White is president of Llamagraphics, Inc., developer of Life Balance™ software for Mac OS X, Windows, Palm OS and iPhone. Life Balance provides a structure for your goals, projects and tasks that is priority driven, so you can to make better decisions about how to use your discretionary time. To learn more, please visit http://www.llamagraphics.com/

Quick, back to the comfort zone!

Yes, there is value in stepping out of your comfort zone from time to time. You get to experience the new, the wonderful, the strange. You see things differently.

However, it is also equally important to have a comfort zone that allows you a place of safety from which to venture forth.

Many people are in a constant state of turmoil, stress, and distress.

Without a comfort zone, you have no place for the mind or body to rest. Like a metal ball in a pin ball machine, you are bouncing excitedly against the bumpers. You do what you have to do, and despite all the frenetic activity, choices for how to react are limited. In our daily lives, it is easy to perceive threats where there are none. It is easy to choose to be on edge, when you could be relaxed. Our wild animal minds are always on alert. Our outer critics are too numerous and our inner critic won’t shut up for a moment.

Caption: 

Tiger Lounging: Took this photo when we had a day at the Animal Kingdom when we were down for launch of STS 120. We were safely behind glass. (Our comfort zone when face to face with Tigers!)

My grandmother used to say, “they can kill you, but they can’t eat you,” which always left me perplexed. Once I’ve been done in, who is to say that they won’t fry me up with some butter and onions, or tear into me with bare teeth? However, the point was supposed to be that neither outcome was very likely to happen on the school playground. A point that was lost on me as a child. Instead I imagined my playmates to be potential closet cannibals or ravenous beasts. I already did not trust many people, and that simply reinforced my suspicion that I should be on my guard at all times. You never know who might be looking at you with a fork in one hand and a bottle of ketchup in the other!

The most successful people I have met, know how to create some margin of safety for themselves and others. Even when their professions involve real danger, risk to life and limb, or when they are very busy people with more to do than most. Most successful people have some kind of a safe haven – trusted friends, and room to retreat when the world imposes. People who really know you, who will say “you are alright with me. I don’t care what happened or what that other bozo said about you.”

The people I know who are trust worthy, are so dear to me, that I would gladly do anything in the world for them. They are a joy to work with. We need not worry about offending each other with small slights, although we are careful of each other’s feelings. Some real doozie mistakes are tolerated with a kind eye. We can relax together in close quarters, be awkward or bashful without serious reproach beyond a mild kidding. We can be quiet, or talk. We share a comfort zone. We are tigers among tigers; playing like kittens, with claws withdrawn. We have to give each other room to be safe, even when we know the world is full of other bigger meaner tigers. Schoolyard cannibals might still be out there. Lock the gate, there might be barbarians, or diabolical chipmunks. Dangers real and imagined.

You can’t step out of your comfort zone if you don’t ever have one. If you wish to live a balanced life, you have to have a comfort zone, some core, some central pivot point of equilibrium around which you can divert energy to stretch, to grow, and to achieve your larger goals and purpose.

Sometimes that point is easy to see, and sometimes that point can only be determined by indirectly watching the motion of daily life swirl around it. It is worth keeping an eye out for it, so you can come back to it often, like a lair.

Once you have even a moment of pause, where you feel a sense of safety and comfort, consider how to expand it, a little… so that over time, you are comfortable in more situations. Eventually, when you break away from the quiet camouflage of the underbrush to pounce and tussle with the Thomson’s gazelles, or to deal with the chipmunk menace, you’ll always have some restful place for your wild panting tigress heart to return.


 Copyright © 2009, Catherine E. White, permission is granted for this article to be redistributed and shared with others in its entirety as long as links and attribution are maintained.

Catherine E. White is president of Llamagraphics, Inc., developer of Life Balance™ software for Mac OS X, Windows, Palm OS and iPhone. Life Balance provides a structure for your goals, projects and tasks that is priority driven, so you can to make better decisions about how to use your discretionary time. To learn more, please visit http://www.llamagraphics.com/

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed