Work is overwhelming. Your side gig isn’t going great. You’ve got your own issues that everyone has but you feel alone in. You barely have enough time. Your motivation is tapped out. The house, yard, and car are spiting you with their needs for upkeep. Your task list is just getting longer and longer and you feel like you’re fighting to keep your head above water. Also, it’s political season and it looks like nothing is going right.
Welcome to 2016.
Take a deep breath. Exhale. Repeat a few times. Count seconds as you breathe in and out. Try for seven seconds in, seven holding, and seven out. Focus on that — seven, seven, seven.
Your influence on the election is limited. Do what you can but don’t kill yourself promoting candidates. Accept this one and move on.
In every situation our influence is limited, though — outside of our own minds and bodies we don’t have absolute control. Accept that, too.
Work, side-gig, upkeep, relationships, yourself — all of these are fighting for time. There are a finite number of hours in the day.
For each and every category make a list of what you must do — tasks at work, re-configuring your side gig, call an old friend, work out — then prioritize it. Separate them by category so there are lists for each topic demanding your time. Now, figure out what time you have to spend doing which lists. If you’re like most Americans, 40 hours is your day job out of the gate.
Figure out what time you have, and what time you need for each thing. Set aside time for each of these lists. During that time, work on the to-do list, from high priority down. Don’t worry about other stuff, other lists. Just the current tasks. If your mind strays, deep breaths. Seven, seven, seven. Several times, until you can focus.
If you find yourself wandering too much or unable to calm yourself down you may need help — chemical balance is important. More/less caffeine, more/less water (likely more). Maybe your testosterone is out of whack. Maybe you’re suffering from depression (which can be caused by and lead to testosterone issues in a vicious cycle). If this is the case — seek help.
Also look at what you do during the time when you are supposed to be working on tasks A, B, C. Are these things helping or hurting? If they are hurting, why are you doing them?
Don’t set goals and live or die by them, don’t set deadlines and live or die by them. But understand that deadlines exist — if your car needs an oil change, there is a point at which the oil change morphs into a much larger problem if you put it off.
Don’t put off the oil change.
That’s the point of prioritizing. Deadlines can help with that — you need to get your oil changed this weekend, to keep with our example. You have to block out time to do that. I did the other week — I needed an oil change and hey, my tired were out of balance and my alighnment was a bit off, and it’d been a while since the transmision was flushed. So I took my car in and knocked out a ton of upkeep in one afternoon in order to not have my car fall apart on the interstate.
Not this weekend but next I need to tackle the now-dead grass and weeds attempting to grow through the patio pavers. Eventually I intend to get concrete poured there instead to eliminate this task. But first I need to work toward that — and allow the concentrated poison I sprayed to work.
This weekend there is more pressing upkeep: the elements have warped some of the fence boards and I need to get out there and work on that before they come apart entirely. I could pay someone to do it, I suppose, but I find tasks like that help me think through other things. My day job and side gig are both quite passive, computer intensive work. Physical chores let me rest my mind and engage my body.
I would like to start on the fence work today, but it continues to rain on and off — and part of this involves putting new posts in, which means concrete, which means I need a dry yard for at least some of the time. I can’t let this delay stress me out, so I’ll replace it with another task. If it is raining this weekend I will need to make other, temporary structural repairs to the fence until I can do this.
I’ve written three short stories and a novella in the Cigars and Legs series. They are waiting on me to finish proof-reading/editing before handing off to my wife for her proof-reading (she has done such work professionally; I chose well). I hate proof-reading. Once I get this set of works out I’m going to attempt to write a small script to look for my most common errors and highlight them.
For example, despite taking several additional English classes in college I am still unable to properly use the comma with any consistency. Also, I’ve fallen into using passive voice in places where it really needs to be active and have some balls to it.
At work I have three main tasks to finish before the end of the fiscal year. Without getting into too much detail, one is tedious and involves working with a web-page to acquire several terabytes of data and then doing my computer-magic on that data. Other than a few hours with the website and then the downloaded data this task is mostly background. But the website is really tedious.
The secondary task is working with another organization’s data server to acquire other terabytes of data and do computer magic on them. Except in this case I’ll be working from scratch and there’s no stupid website involved. And, the data won’t even be avilable until next week — so that task is low priority.
But my primary task is coding up something to run an algorithm on some of this data. The actual algorithm I finished in… months ago? But now there’s some file-handle crap I need to do and I’m really not excited by this at all. Plus, the person it is for keeps re-tasking me (then wondering why this is so late). The deadline for this is… unclear, but I’m going to finish the fucker by the end of next week.
List things. Prioritize them. Deep breaths.
Also, don’t forget that everyone needs some hardboiled fucking, so clear your mind with a femme fatale.
If you feel frustrated and need an escape, read The Boots Are Red!