Desi Aragon

Modern Day Muse

Getting stuff done while not doing a thing.

So the other day I was surprised to find myself repeating a pattern that I have worked diligently to break. The pattern is my obsession with doing. I just love the feeling of getting things done. Through the years, I have given up both alcohol and caffeine, and still the need to be a doer is by far the most difficult addiction to break.

The obsession comes on slowly, almost stealth like. This time, I was just going about my weekend, spending a little quality time with my hubby. Then, he suggested that he wanted us to consider purchasing a large item. We talked about the pros and cons and let the matter be set aside until a decision could be made on a future date. Unfortunately, my inner “doer” could not let the matter rest. Instead, the doer started to sneakily take over.

First she began by not sleeping well, even having minor signs of panic attack (fast breathing, body clenching). She found herself trying to consider all of the different ways we could make the purchase work well for the whole family. Then in the early morning she decided that all of the laundry HAD to be done BEFORE then end of the day. She also felt compelled to be responsible for everyone’s food choices throughout the day, making sure they each got a favorite food. Now, all of these actions should have made it really clear, that the my doer had taken over brain controls. But no, I was still in denial and went to bed thinking of all of the things that absolutely MUST be done during the week.

By the time I woke up Monday morning, I was already exhausted and ready to give up. The week hadn’t even started yet! After a meditation and some self reflection I began to notice my thoughts. Most of them starting with the phrase “I don’t wanna”. I don’t wanna get out of bed. I don’t wanna go to that client site. I don’t wanna go to another sports practice. Uh oh. There it was – little resentments over the everyday things.

This was my big clue. Most days these ordinary tasks actually feel ok but when the doer takes over brain controls she constantly tells me I am not doing any of it good enough and that I should be everywhere all at once. Man, she’s tough. The funny thing is that I love my doer, she helped me earn a Master’s degree, hold an Executive leadership position, and give motherhood a try. My doer is really great, but we do much much better when she takes a secondary position rather than primary when driving my brain activities.

The important thing to understand is that in your life there are certain activities you do (your 20 percent) that account for the majority (your 80 percent) of your happiness and outputs. – Yaro Starak, The Entrepreneurs Journey

If you really want to get stuff done, stop doing so much. Yep I said it. Our shared obsessions with task lists, check boxes, and action items actually deprives us of following the natural flow that life has to offer. Have you ever put something off, because you didn’t feel like doing it? It’s kind of like that. Do only what you feel like doing not what you think has to be done. Believe it or not this will actually allow you to get MORE things done. Even better is that you get more of the things that actually matter completed. But how?

Well, start by just noticing. What do you think you have to do today? Laundry, phone calls, work? Now ask yourself whether you actually HAVE TO do any of those? Could the laundry and the calls be put off? Could you call in sick to work? Next, consider what would be the advantages of doing any one (but not all) of those items today. Is there anything that if it got done today would actually help you to feel better?

We get more accomplished, when we do what feels fun and easy. As soon as something feels hard or awkward, we have to give our brains rest. At work this may be as simple as a walking break. At home, this may be to play a game with the family. By redirecting our energy toward what we actually WANT to do we are actually preparing our neuro pathways to tolerate more of the tasks that we may need to do for healthy living.
In my case, once I gave myself permission to reschedule my onsite client meeting, it no longer felt so burdensome. When my doer was forcing me to go it sounded like a burden. When the doer took a backseat, and my reflective self gave permission to not go, I felt better. I felt free to consider all of the options that might be available. Rather than continuing to feel sleepy and overwhelmed my mind became more alert and engaged in the day. And ultimately, with the new sense of freedom, I actually decided to go to the client site and had a great day.

We [often] have urgent, but unimportant items – items which should be minimized or eliminated. – Sid Savara

For some reason we humans are wired to create non urgent tasks. We somehow think that following certain set of action items will help us feel better. In my case, at the start of this blog, I mentioned the big family purchase. My doer was trying to figure out all of the ways to make it work by giving me a to do list (research costs, discuss viability, talk with market expert, etc). When I realized that those tasks were actually making me feel worse, not better, about the situation, I stopped obsessing. I realized that IF we decided to move forward, the tasks could wait until then. During the exploratory phase of the idea, the only action my hubby really needed was for me to be a good listener. I was giving myself unnecessary tasks as a way of controlling the situation. A situation that I felt uncertain about.

The tasks were covering up my fears. My doer took over to try cover up my fears. Once I vocalized my fears, and opted out of the to do list, my doer stepped back into the secondary role. Yes, of course there is stuff to do. We all have dishes, or laundry, or work related obligations. The trick is not to make those tasks worse or more burdensome than they need to be. Evaluate your to do list and look for the things that can be eliminated. If it feels urgent but its not important you don’t need to do it. if it is important, then be flexible on when and how you choose to get it done. Wait until you are rested, well fed and peaceful before attempting an intellectually intensive task. Begin a physical at the start of the day while your muscles are fresh. And, if you get blocked divert your energy to something that sounds more fun so you can refuel and ultimately revisit the open tasks.

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