Friday, July 30, 2021

Busy ≠ Productive ≠ Satisfied

As far as I can tell, Fear Of Missing Out (FOMU) is unfounded. As I've written before, while many people worry that giving up their smartphone will mean they're going to be consumed by thoughts of the social media posts they're missing out on, I've found the opposite to be the case; after just a few days without a smartphone, I didn't even want to check my email on my laptop. Hell, after a week, I didn't really want to look at a computer screen, period. There's this ideal existence out there for me in which my conventional flip-phone is my sole means of electronic communication and my notebooks are my primary vehicle for writing.

You know what else is implied in that ideal existence? Not being so god damned busy, and letting go of that was much more terrifying that letting go of my smartphone and my stupid social media accounts. My sense of self was tied up in those notion of myself as Someone Who Got Things Done, and even more frightening, what if I was bored?

Three months after I walked away from being a Busy Person™, I can assure you, once again, that FOMU is overrated. I'm not only calmer with less on my plate, I'm more satisfied.

What you'd like to use when you have a lot to do

I didn't add anything new to my life. Everything I'm doing now is something that I had to do already, in one way or another. Those projects include:

  • Managing my finances. Now, instead of keeping one eye on my balances and another on my expenses, I'm able to dig in thoroughly and attack some "structural" projects, like refinancing my condo (which I began and completed between May 1 and now). I am loving the kakeibo system, not just because of the structure, but because, as with all things of this nature, it's forcing me to make sure my short-term actions are reconciled with my long-term goals. (And no, I am getting absolutely nothing from you clicking on that link, other than the satisfaction that you're not clicking on an Amazon link.)
  • Educating my sons. I'm calling it "educating" because we're transitioning out of homeschooling, but I'm still playing an administrative role (I don't think this is very different from many other parents of teenagers). Since May 1, this has included getting them ready for a placement exam, helping them register for courses, and navigating the financial aid system (add that to the above category too). 
  • Writing. I've touched on some of the challenges I've encountered over the last few years, not the least of which was negotiating COVID-19 and the effects it had on my family (again, I don't think this makes me very different from many other people, particularly of teenagers). I have felt, in many ways, behind with this project -- here's another reason to avoid busy-ness, because that's a constant state of being, and it's nerve wracking. I've been able to get back into the habit of regular writing -- even if it's just a paragraph on some days -- and I recently felt brave enough to commit to a goal of getting this installment done by the beginning of November (what's the opposite of a stretch goal? A safety goal? Because that's REALLY doable for me) and the whole thing drafted by the end of February (that may be a stretch goal). A few days ago, I went back and figured out what I've already written and what I have left to write. While I've been telling people that I'm half-way through this saga, it turns out that I'm more like 60 percent along (make that 62.5% if you want to be really nerdy about it); 10 down, 6 more to go. (What?!) I may not be able to make the end of February, but now that I have fewer other things to do, I'm going to get much closer that I would have before. (And you'd better believe I'm going to want to throw myself a party when I'm done.)

The above is three bullet items, which doesn't look like a lot, but all of them have multiple layers and nuances. In my experience, that's true for most things -- but also in my experience, those nuances feel like roadblocks when we're juggling multiple projects, but exciting opportunities for growth when we're not. (I'm not exaggerating, but it's something you have to experience for yourself to believe it.) 

Even more importantly, for me at least, is that being able to work on three projects on multiple levels is much more satisfying than having to work on six on a shallow level. When you have, frankly, too many things to get done, emergency mode requires you to keep the high-level goals for everything foremost in your mind, and some of the most important details easily accessible. You have to know The How, but it's very easy to lose sight of The Why. When you have fewer projects, it's harder to lose touch with The Why, and that can "power you through" when the work gets tough (sadly, nothing ever guarantees that sometimes work won't get tough). 

What you can create for yourself when you're not overscheduled

All of that means that different parts of your brain are working; instead of a two-dimensional map, you're able to create a three-dimensional globe that helps you navigate in more detail. And instead of feeling like you're going to fall of the page and into the end of the world once your project is over, you'll have a better idea of where your next destination should be and how you should get there.

Which is awesome, because come to think of it, that idyllic existence I talked about above is definitely going to benefit from the presence of a globe.

Deb in the City

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