Sunday, March 7, 2010

Focusing on the Good News

One of the best things about my work life is that I mostly get to pick the things I think about and spend energy on. There are a whole series of corollaries that go with that, most irritatingly right now that I’m interested in more things than I have the time or energy to pursue. So, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, that’s another of the good problems to have. Furthermore, almost all the things that absolutely, positively have to get done are things that engage my imagination and challenge my intellect, so that’s all pretty cool. I’m working on holding that thought, because the list of pressing, important things requiring some action is a little daunting.

Aside from being the good problems to have, there are other bright spots in this. Consistent with the old adage “if you want something done, ask a busy person,” my time management skills are improving and (here’s a really great thing), I’m both getting better at saying “no” and shedding a lot of the stupid stuff as I go. Well, a little bit better at saying no. Ok, would you buy that I’ve said “no” to some things this semester that I might not have before brain surgery? Since I have more limited energy than I’d like, there are some things I just cannot do, and the practice has, as with so many things, helped me improve at it. Still, it’s not what you’d call a well-developed skill and it could stand to improve even more.

Lately, I’ve been using Randy Paush’s time management talk as inspiration and limiting my to-do lists to “important, due soon” and “important, not due soon.” It’s helping me stay on track and moderately productive, but the list doesn’t seem to be shrinking much. What this new list style helps me do, I hope, is stay ahead of catastrophe and avoid dropping major balls. Still, I’m running as fast as I can and it still feels like I'm getting behinder all the time. As the clutter is piling up around the edges of our life, I’m investing in bigger and bigger blinders because looking at it would just be crazy-making. I’m hopeful that this is going to lead to an increased ability to shed more stuff soon--like after the semester ends, maybe--but in the meantime, I’m keeping my head down and not looking around while I move from one due date to the next.

What I’m proudest of is that, mostly, I’m still managing to live by my values and to carve time out to spend with people. Not as many as I’d like, not as often as I’d like, but every week, I’m managing to have lunch with someone, or find a small spot to visit, or at least to reach out in some way. Some weeks right now, it’s a weaker reach than I’d like and I’m trying to keep my eye on the goal of doing better. At least, though, that hasn’t fallen off the cliff, as has trying to stay on top of the clutter.

Monday brings two classes, Tuesday brings a whole slew of medical tests, and the rest of the week is my last chance to catch my breath and catch up a little bit before the deluge of the second-seven-week class that starts March 16. There’s a ton of stuff to do for Monday’s classes, for the starting-up class, for the overdue advice column, never mention the new idea hovering just out of reach, and actually doing the writing that’s on my mind. These are the good problems to have. I’m interested in all this stuff. If you see me and I’m muttering to myself, that’s what I’m saying.

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