Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Day You Won't Regret

Most of us are pros at the futile exercise of self-punishment for the things we feel we should have accomplished in a day but did not.

Think about it for a moment.  How often do "shoulds" take possession of your obsessions?  

After years of working intimately with folks who struggle with the havoc their thoughts wreak with their psyche and their health I can probably answer that question better that you: a lot.  If you want to know your definitive answer, start noticing; you will be surprised.

The problem with recurring thinking about all the items we did NOT check off of our to do list is that we spend far too much time putting out negative energy surrounding ourselves and our abilities.  And negativity begets negativity.  In other words, with the amount of negative judgment you are feeding to yourself it becomes a simple cycle of negativity surrounding our self-expectation; a situation that is NOT conducive to our best performance, work output or overall sense of well being.  In fact, we innately begin to expect that we will not accomplish what we would like to with our day.

Some of us therapy-types like to tell folks, "stop 'shoulding' on yourself."  It usually gets a laugh, but it is easier said than done.  Here are a few techniques to set your day into a positive pattern so that you can handle the inevitable disruptions without seeing yourself as a failure if you do not follow your plan.

First on your list- expect the unexpected.  Write it down if you need to.  To think that we actually have "control" is a set up for failure from the start.  Allow for time in every day to NOT go as planned.  Expect that there may be a call from a client canceling or that you will have to go to pick up your child from school or that the dog ralphed all over the kitchen floor during the night.  Just this mind-switch, this expectation of unpredictability will go far in aiding you to become more at peace with your daily schedule.

Think about what you CAN control in your day. Yourself and only yourself.  

Start your days with rituals that take care of yourself that you enjoy and will look forward to doing.  Maybe it is setting your alarm ten minutes early for some centering breathing exercises using a positive mantra.  Maybe it is a full-blown thirty minute meditation session.  Maybe it's writing for 20 minutes. Maybe it is having time to read your book or your newspaper before you start your day or just to sit down quietly with your cup of tea or coffee.  Maybe it is your morning workout routine.  Maybe it is one of these things each day. Start your day by paying yourself first and then acknowledge that you did so.  Feel the sense of ease it gives you to take care of yourself. 

Yeah right, but I have the kids running around or a new born or puppies or  . . .   Think about how you can work that bit of centering time for yourself into your life.  Process it the night before and discuss it with those in your household, if need be, to make a plan.  Maybe your self-time needs to be after you have left the house.  Think about it as if your boss or client was telling you to make it happen.  Then make it happen.

Regarding your "list of things to do."  Have an overall list of tasks that you'd like to get accomplished- short term goals, long term goals and the tasks that it takes to achieve those goals for home and work and your personal life.  But at the end of the each day think about the next day and what is really happening in your home, work and personal life and be realistic about what you can accomplish the next day.  Set fewer concrete goals than you think you can achieve, setting yourself up for success instead of failure.

Schedule time off.  Have a day a week of respite.  A day to take things as they come.  A day to be IN the moment, not chasing the task.  A day, you laugh.  Okay, half a day.  A few hours.  (stop arguing the impossibility and put that energy into making it work for you)

Why do I write this now?  I have my book back from an editor begging to be jumped back into, our semi and half worth of items arrived from the US, I was gifted with a horse, I started a new gig . . .  I could beat myself up every day that I haven't gotten back into my book yet, but you know what?  I could have written my book in a few weeks if all the lengthy sessions I poured into it were done consecutively.  That's how I work best.  So I refuse to do the daily "you should be working on your book, when are you going to work on your book," because I know, unequivocally, that when I pick it up I will work and work and work on it until it is exactly like I want it.  I will do that better if I do not have boxes surrounding me, if I can feel order around me I can work in a more orderly fashion.  It's coming . . . we are about sorted out and I can't wait. 

Anticipation of doing is a much better feeling to have than self-loathing at what hasn't been done and is infinitely more effective in aiding productivity.

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