Thursday, 9 May 2019

Pacing when there's too much to do: Conscious Decisions

I started to write a blog about pacing when there's too much to do based on my stupidly busy last few months (new website, becoming a limited company, working with the HMSA, family stuff, managing my health etc. etc.) but it was too long, so instead I'm going to try a series of shorter blogs about separate aspects of pacing when there's too much to do, when optimal condition management simply isn't possible and I just need to get through a set period of time, after which demands on my time will decrease again.

(Note: The 'coping with too much on' combination of strategies is different to a 'coping with everyday life' although lots of the principles will apply to both. Also note, I'm still getting back on track after the 'too busy' time, so I'm not working as much as I would normally, and probably have a few brain fog errors in this blog. I wondered whether I should simply not write until I was OK, but decided it's OK to write stuff that isn't perfect. That is simply 'the best I can do for now'.)

Today's topic is 'Conscious Decisions'.

I still find it fascinating how easily I get to a point where I'm just reacting to one thing after another, feeling like I have to do all this stuff, and I'm drowning, and yet how quickly a few conscious decisions can change it.

Over the past 10 years I've learned that as soon as I feel the desperate STOP THE WORLD I NEED TO GET OFF! rising up, I need to review tasks, priorities and decisions. It's become a hardwired process. ARGH I CAN'T = stop right now. Reassess. then decide how to proceed.

Example 1: 
- I try and release new products every 2 months. I have done for years. I haven't released anything new since The Pocket Book of Pacing (how ironic!). I'm overdue. I'm failing. I must do new products..... - guilt and stress sapping precious energy. I have a queue of people asking for new products. I can't let them down!

By consciously looking at this task, I could decide: No new products until May. What if I loose customers? I'm letting people down. No actually, I'm planning my workload and ensuring my customers get the best. Instantly other tasks become less overwhelming because I know there's one thing I don't need to worry about yet.

Example 2:
- I've been invited to visit a friend for dinner, and I still have a million things to do, and I don't know how to fit it all in, and I don't have the energy - but I want to go, and I haven't seen anyone for ages, and EVERYTHING IS TOO MUCH ARGHHHH

By stopping and consciously asking myself 2 questions it was sorted: Would you like to visit them?   Yes, I want to go, and I think I need a break from work too. What genuinely needs to happen? - well, I don't need to look presentable to visit. I can flop on her sofa (she's a great friend!).Only one task was essential for that day, and it was doable before the visit. I also decided to only go for an hour instead of actually for dinner - longer would have been too much energy. But because I'd decided to go, and I'd also decided that other tasks could wait, I enjoyed my visit without worrying or feeling guilty. And because I'd decided only an hour (and told my friend that) it made leaving early also not a big guilt factor.

Example 3:
to get the website launched on time I will need to work all weekend. I'm already exhausted. I can't think straight, but I have to get it done! I can't earn any money until it's up! I can't let my customers down! I CAN'T COPE! STOP THE WORLD I NEED TO GET OFF!

Stop. Re-assess. Is this a 'society expects' based 'have to'. Or is it a genuine 'have to'? Will I be homeless if I don't earn for another week. No. I have enough money for essentials. (yes, I know how lucky I am). Will I honestly loose all my customers? No. If I carry on, I'll be messing up my health and recovery may take months.

I decided to delay the website launch by a week (and it just happened that my developer also suddenly needed time off too - so I got his request just as I sat down to write mine). But not only that, I realised just how run down I was and took the whole weekend off. Joyous, unrepentant, and free from all 'ought'. I lay in bed and watched brainless TV. I napped. I snacked. I stretched. I relaxed. I didn't push myself to do anything. Sitting up only happened when I genuinely felt I had the energy to do so. And because I had decided that this was a recharge weekend I didn't feel like the mountain was looming. Instead I knew (and kept reminding myself) that the break would allow me to climb the mountain more effectively next week. And I was right.

(Note: I didn't ignore the fears. I thought them through. I looked at the 'what if's' and decided how significant the risks were, so I could weigh up what action to take)

Example 4: 
This is going to totally exhaust me, but I have to do it. I have no choice.

Stop: Is there a choice? Actually yes, there was a choice, but it was so important to me that my decision was to do it anyway. Ok, so I've decided to do it. What other decisions do I need to make to make it as do-able as possible, and to manage the after-effects? - I booked the following day as a splat day, made sure meals were prepared in advance, looked through my To Do list, and scheduled in all other key tasks for the week to ensure I knew I could get the most important things done that week despite taking the time off for this.

It was amazing how many things I could delay/change from my original schedule by making conscious decisions.
In an ideal world, yes, the accounting system would have been fully operational from day one. But actually, it has been absolutely fine to use it enough to be certain the system works but leave various admin tasks to catch up on later. It's worked out fine.
My website launched a week late, and nothing bad happened.
Other times I pushed myself to the limit and then stayed in bed to recover - and that was OK too.

The important thing was that nothing was 'have to' - everything was 'I choose'.

And that made so much difference.

[Yes, I am fully aware there is a LOT more to pacing in a busy patch than just decisions, hopefully I'll cover some other issues in the next few weeks]