(last updated on April 29, 2014)
I started my productivity reboot by just stating the desire to get back into the groove, and it ended up becoming a declaration of belief. Here’s the abridged version of what happened last week:
Starting with momentum and goals
At first, I started with simple process goals to maintain momentum. If I maintain momentum, so my reasoning went, I will eventually get out of the doldrums. Over the past several years I’ve experimented with a few techniques: getting up early, using my various scheduler tools, and timer-based pacing tricks. Each of these tools failed within the first two days of the reboot, leaving me to acknowledge that there were deeper issues with my work now and the work I think I should be doing.
Here’s what I want:
- I want to achieve the financial freedom so I can meet awesome people, then write and design from the resulting inspiration.
- In the meantime, I need to finish my current long term project commitments and not be distracted by the future.
- I need to develop products and other services that bring me into alignment with my writing and design goals.
- I want to be a major participant in a community of positive, self-empowered people who are of a similar mind.
On the surface, there are clear actions one can take based on principles of maintaining focus and momentum. They just take discipline to implement:
- Productivity is a byproduct of focused momentum. Maintain focus and momentum, and the right things will get done.
- Remove environmental distractions that rob focus. Without focus, momentum is harder to maintain.
- Create momentum-building habits like waking up at a regular time, using planning tools that emphasize timeliness, and delivery tangible intermediate results.
Facing the internal demons
However, as the week ground on it became clear that it was the motivation-related challenges that were the real issues.
- I was unmotivated by the future, therefore the work felt pointless.
- I was feeling unsettled and off balance, therefore it was difficult to push forward with conviction and strength.
Diagnostically, I needed to dive deeper into myself to find the root causes undermining my dedication. After some reflection, I came to believe that these were the major underlying issues and desires that were throwing me off balance.
- I was way too serious about being productive, and beat myself up about it. I needed to remember to laugh at it as well.
- I needed to look deeper into myself to find the bad feelings and irrational feelings that were the source of my unease.
- I needed to define and face those fears and uncertainties to see what I was facing.
- I needed to rediscover what I believed, and why it was important so I could work toward the future with certainty.
An unblinking look at myself, to see the shape of my despair:
- There is a child-like part of me that is feeling sad, scared, and alone with regards to the future.
- It needed to be acknowledged and accepted. And so I did.
Having defined what was bothering me, I was able to make a reaffirmation of what I believe about myself with regards to the future. What followed was a declaration of secular faith, reproduced here in slightly shortened form:
The boat I’m rowing toward my grand vision is empty except for me, and it’s been empty for a long time. It is lonely and filled with uncertainty, and there is no indication that the situation will change. My first response was the desire to indulge my sadness, like a frightened child. The optimistic response, however, is to recognize that even though I don’t know the future, there is no reason not to believe in something better. And unlike a child, I have the means and the experience to actually do something and change my situation. All I need is the courage to choose, for myself and my people. Even if those choices ultimately fail, even if I’m sad and demoralized, it’s of utmost importance that I choose to act. To give up, throw in the towel, escape in personal indulgences, and otherwise refuse to face these fears is to choose failure. That is not the kind of person I imagine my best self to be. The stories we are writing about ourselves should not end this way.
Since then, I’ve felt a kind of steady calmness descend upon me, because I’ve defined a role for myself. In the absence of an organizational structure, with people at my side every day, I’d become disconnected from the strengthening hand of shared destiny. I have essentially manufactured my own structure out of thin air, establishing a tribe of one. The unspoken hope is that I find others in my tribe, so that we might all prosper together. And most importantly, I need to remember to laugh about this, to maintain mirthfulness and joy.
I think with this, I can return to my regularly-scheduled productivity writing. Every once in a while, I just need to remind myself why I do it at all. If you are interested in the articles leading up to this epiphany, here are the links:
- Productivity Reboot – feeling uneasy, declaring the intent to start clean with new habits.
- Productivity Reboot Day 1 – the failure of habits, recognizing the allure of procrastination
- Productivity Reboot Day 2-3 – a growing resolve, recognizing that procrastination mirrors accomplishment
- Productivity Reboot Day 4 – facing down the deep-seated fear, and extracting a statement of belief