There you stand, looking at the freight train you have allowed to slow to a full stop. You know that you must get it moving again, but all of those hundreds of thousands of pounds of steel seem impossibly immobile. You recognize that the amount of energy it will take to get things rolling again feels infinitely greater than what it took to keep the moving train moving. It feels daunting and you would rather just go back to bed.
In mid-October I decided I was going to pause my daily blogging a few days to shift my focus to write more on topics that will help others. Though the idea of a shift was solid, my strategy was not, and it resulted in me not writing at all until today. Perhaps you can learn from the trap I fell into.
To understand where I went wrong, it is necessary to first understand my own personal issues with tension. Like many people, I struggle with anxiety and there is a part of my mind that, when I get overwhelmed, wants at all costs to remove the tension from whatever situation I am in. This causes errors in my decision making and negatively affects projects where I am the sole contributor.
In this case, what I intended was to stop publishing my blog for a week while I thought through my intentions and refocused my purpose. What happened, in reality, was that I pulled the “release valve.” Suddenly I had less tension and less pressure and that terrible overwhelmed part of my brain felt satisfied. If I give in to this terrible instinct too often, it will sabotage any chance I have at making a real difference in the lives of others.
It is OK to stop hitting publish on your blog while you reprioritize and think things through. **What you should not do under any circumstances is to interrupt your habit of writing every day.** Writing and blogging are not identical. Even if you are not writing a blog to post you should be writing SOMETHING to keep the momentum and the habit.
Getting Started Again:
Once I recognize what is happening and I summon the courage to fix the problem, I have a very specific way of moving past the inertia. The technique I use for getting back into motion, I call “The tiniest box to your peppiest tune.” It is similar to the idea that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
How to get started with “The Tiniest Box to Your Peppiest Tune”
1. Pick the size of your box.
Choose the smallest reasonable increment of the thing that you need to get done. This is your tiniest box. If it is cleaning a room that has you paralyzed, go to a corner of the room and choose a six inch by six inch square that has something in it. If you want to do ten hours of backlogged data entry, go to one single entry that needs to be accomplished and open it up.
2. Add music.
Make it something that really makes you want to move. Turn up the volume. Really feel the beat. Stare at the tiniest box while feeling the music.
3. Do the thing.
Clean that six inch square. It will feel ridiculous but do it anyway. Enter that one record of data entry. Groove to the music and then move the box a little and do the next thing. Focus only on the box, not on the room, and not on the mountain of data, just on the box.
A few additional notes.
- Continue this until it feels as though the music is a part of your perspective and the rhythm is a part of the work.
- Move the box, do the thing, move the box, do the thing.
- Let it all simmer together until you don’t want to stop doing the thing.
- If you get distracted by how daunting it all is, go back to the box and go back to the tune. Block everything else out and start again.
If you feel daunted or overwhelmed, give this a try. You’ll find your own way to make it work with the right music and the right sized box.