Thursday, November 20, 2003

Learning to Balance

So - the 30-day trial license is about to expire on this Life Balance™ software that I've been trying out. Since I'm such a geek, it's a little tough for me to know yet whether it's really doing for me what I want or whether I just like playing with it. What I can say is that I'm using it and that is a pretty good sign.

I'm finding that there are some things I just don't like to do when they bubble up to the top and what I do about that seems to be the real learning edge for me. I have a couple of strategies that I employ... some with better success than others.

The most basic strategy is that I sometimes just get stuck and don't do anything else. I'll stare and stare at the item at the top of the list that doesn't appeal to me and after a while, I'll sometimes start beating myself up for not having done it. This approach doesn't actually work so well. I don't recommend it.

What works marginally better is that sometimes when something pops up to the top of my list and I don't like it, I'll just skip down to the next item I feel like doing. This way, I manage to at least get something done. This is more effective for staying on top of the list as a whole. It doesn't do a whole lot for the tasks I keep skipping over. As a general strategy, it's tough to recommend but I can see its usefulness from time to time.

As I work with this software and those problem To Do's, I'm finding there's another way that works better for me. Usually the tasks that I don't feel much like taking on are recurring so I have to deal with them regularly. After a while, it becomes apparent that they're a problem for me. Of course, that also means admitting some failure on my part, and that's not exactly comfortable. Here's a funny thing about the notion of failure, though - first of all, it assumes there's a right way and a wrong way; secondly, it also assumes that there's a finish of some sort where we reach "perfection" and are done. Don't we all wish!

Instead, I've been re-training myself to think of my inaction on these items as a red flag for learning, not as failures. So what kinds of things have I learned? Sometimes it's pretty simple - the task items simply just aren't as important to me as I'd originally believed. If that's the case, it's pretty easy just to slide the importance bar down a couple of notches so that I don't see the task quite so often. By the time I do see it, I can usually gumption up enough nerve to get through it.

Other times, the tasks really are important. While I may not like performing them, I do want the end result. If there's another way to accomplish what I want, I'll go for that. Who says life has to be hard all the time? One trick I try is to break the job up into smaller pieces. If the thought of writing some huge report is too intimidating, how about writing out the table of contents first, then a section or two at a time until it's written.

Sometimes it's a matter of finding a way to make it fun. Rewarding myself for a job well done is one way. Hate to pay the bills? It might be more fun if the reward is to have a beer afterward. Sometimes there's way to make the task itself more enjoyable. I know one guy who used to do the Tom Cruise Risky Business dance whenever he'd vacuum. Not that you'd ever want to see that... but it did get the living room clean!

Sure, I sometimes wish I didn't have to play such mindgames with myself to get my work done. At least I'm doing more of it than I ever had before, and that's the general point, right?

What are you resisting - and why is that? Send your answers to that question or ideas for doing things you don't like to do to - it could make for some real useful learning for the rest of us.

Don't like a job? Find a way to make it easier, more fun, or something you don't have to do at all.