Sharpen the Saw

This post started out as a complaint that I didn't have much of note to write about today. I don't have any projects in a state worth sharing right now. I didn't have any deep topics I'd been pondering recently. I felt somehow both bored and overwhelmed. I didn't want to do anything useful, despite having a few looming deadlines (plus the end of summer approaches!)

It wasn't until I shared these thoughts with a friend this afternoon that I started to catch on to what might be the issue. I was distracted, dissipated. There was too much going on at once in my brain. I was trying to read and write with the TV on. I didn't have a clear plan or specific tasks to work on. I was trying to ignore important urges because I was too lazy to get off the couch.

So I did something about it.

I turned off the TV. I left the house for a few minutes and got dinner (yes, this took me most of the day to get around to sorting it out).

Over dinner I refused to pull out my phone, focusing instead on a book. Since getting home, I have consciously avoided multitasking. Up until I started writing this post, I have been sitting on the couch reading with no background music and no TV. I took a break after the first draft and came back after reading something else with intense focus.

Most importantly of all, I am fighting the urge to multitask. I'm keeping my focus on one activity at a time.

Somehow, focus is actually proving more relaxing than floating through the day. Having some structure to latch on to is helping me feel more rejuvenated and more relaxed.  It's a kind of meditation.

In the past, I've known this about myself. I do well with a little bit of structure. I work well when I have a plan, or at least a to-do list to check off. Not having any kind of point of focus is painful to the point of frustration for me.

I need something to hang on to. I can no longer keep my tasks in mind without a physical reminder. When I have a written to-do list that I reference throughout the week, it helps me feel more in control. I've gotten away from that in the summer. It's not that I am incapable of remembering, it's that it causes me stress to hold all of that information inside.

As the school year starts back up, I need to keep this in mind. I'll be pulling back out my notebook and plans. I will write down all tasks. I will focus on single, specific things I can do that move toward a goal.

The title of this post refers to the last of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The point of this habit is to find ways to renew and recover energy so that you can maintain your effectiveness at other times.

For me, that means I can't drift for long. Even if what I'm working toward isn't significant, it's something to do. Drifting through the day won't work for me--I end up feeling worse. I can't let the saw get rusty through disuse any more than I can let it get dull through overuse.