Daily Form: Loss of Momentum, Diagnosed and Reframed

Well, it’s already THURSDAY, and my declaration of focus for THE BLOG is not going so well. I’m feeling slightly demoralized by this, but from the ashen ruins of my ambition arise several new-yet-familiar insights.

Wednesday's Journal In this week’s data, you’ll see that the week started HIGH, with great expectations. Tuesday, however, waned noticeably, and by Wednesday I’d sort of given up because I made an executive decision to turn it into a social day. The reason for this was getting to talk to motorcycle adventure traveler Ben Slavin, who is a friend of Sid’s. Last year, Ben rode his motorcycle from New Hampshire all the way down to the tip of South America, and now that he’s back in the States he’s putting together both community and informational DVDs. If you want to know how to prepare for a motorcycle trip to South America, he’s got a bunch of interviews and practical tips on getting past things like military checkpoints. Ben, Sid, and I spent most of the day just chatting about what were were doing with our various endeavors, sharing ideas and tools that we were using. Overall, a great day! In hindsight, I think it was a necessary day to have, to recharge my drained batteries.

Drained? Already? I just started this new phase of adventure-freelancing! But instead of beating myself up and telling myself I’m failing, I’m going to look at this as an opportunity to calibrate my expectations. First, let’s list the issues I’m having 10-days into this leg of the journaling project:

  • Tuesday, despite actually being not a bad day points-wise (especially compared to week 1), was still LESS than Monday. Nothing was completed, checked-off, or finished. The result: it felt like there were three or four unfinished pieces of business looming over my head. Several of them didn’t have clear ending conditions either, being dependent on an outside factor. This is a draining feeling.

  • I’ve been maintaining focus on this form experiment at a higher sustained intensity than I normally would. I’m probably not used to maintaining this pace as a regular habit, so I am mentally exhausted. In other words, I’m a little SICK OF LOOKING AT THIS DAMN FORM.

  • My mind is starting to rebel against the plan. Wednesday, which already started with a meeting (a day-breaker for me), spiralled into a day of social re-invigoration. It was different, and it was invigorating, and I think it also gave me some fresh thoughts on how to approach my own personal goals.

  • I’m noticing that as my mental reserves for focus diminish, I’m starting to do some triage. External obligations and paying work are taking precedence over my own projects, blogging, and home comfort. This is, from past experience, sustainable for about a week before the edges of my sanity start to blacken from growing crankiness. Also, not making progress on my own projects means that I will spend more time stuck where I am now. I’m being penny-wise with my time and pound-foolish with my future.

So what am I going to do about it? First of all, I’ve recognized the pattern before it’s gotten really bad, so I can reframe the experience as follows:

  • Every 5-7 days, expect a day or two of low-productivity days to recharge. Go spend the day hanging out in a museum or making girls laugh, maybe do both at the same time. Build a mountain of pillows for the cats. Take pictures of my growing collection of glass water bottles. Help someone with their art project, be a human sandbag for some lighting equipment at Sid’s studio. This seems to happen anyway…I think it’s a necessary part of my routine.
  • Make time for my projects. I tend to obsess about not spending all my best productive hours on client work, or if I don’t know if a client is satisfied with the progress we’re making. This is probably an artifact of my personality…I hate letting people down, because I hate being let down myself. However, I do need to carve out space for my own personal initiatives and treat them seriously. This form is a step toward making them more real and trackable.

I probably need to build in some external accountability, too. Ben was telling me about the “Linchpin” group he attends in Boston, an offshoot of Seth Godin’s eponymous book, and I think I’m about to do something similar with a few of my friends here. We shall see!

On a side note, one modification I made to the form was to the way I’m logging what got done. I’m embedding timestamps, so I get an idea of what I did when. It’s helpful for recalling the pace of the day, and it mirrors what I do for my own time tracking with Excel.