If you do a Google search for the phrase “Do The Hard Thing First” you’ll find it’s a pretty common theme–and for a good reason. It’s very practical advice, but it’s also a radical suggestion for procrastinators.
Procrastination is natural. No one likes pain (well, most of us don’t), and doing difficult things is emotionally painful. But putting something off
often always causes more pain than just sitting down, or getting out, to do the thing we’re avoiding. Procrastination has a ripple effect. How can you concentrate on doing anything if you have that niggling feeling/thought in the back of your brain that is telling you that you should be doing something else? The simple answer is that you can’t. That thing, that difficult thing you’ve been putting off is too radioactive: you don’t want to get near it, but its presence lessens the perceived worth of everything you’re doing in its stead because you’ve made it WAY TOO BIG. You’ve created your own monster and are letting it take over your day/week/month/year.
When my husband travels, you might think that the thing that looms largest in my mind is the responsibility for our son and four animals: getting everyone fed, scheduled, pooped (fortunately my son, at 17, has long had that handled), etc. Or responsibility for the physical security of the homestead. But, no. Those things aren’t even close. My biggest monster when my husband travels is the cats’ litter box.
Yes, the litter box. I despise scooping the litter box. We have two cats and they are enthusiastic, disciplined poopers. They don’t go outside because they would quickly be owl, hawk, bobcat, or coyote food, plus we live too close to a highway. So poop inside they must. Darling Husband is a champion scooper. He does it first thing in the morning even before he takes the dogs outside. He scoops the box into the trash, and out the whole bag goes. (I get twitchy if the garbage isn’t taken out every day. Also, you don’t want cat poop hanging around the kitchen.) We aren’t the sort of couple to keep score, but the cat scooping thing is worth both a dishwasher emptying and a dinner clean-up to me, and you might could throw in a load of laundry. But when he’s gone…Once he walks out the door for an overnight, the cat box becomes the CAT BOX BEAST. I rationalize waiting until bedtime/last dog outing to do it by saying it will be fresh for the nocturnal kitties overnight. I think we all know that’s bullshit. I end up spending my day avoiding the laundry room because THE BOX IS WAITING. That means no doing laundry. While I’m fixing dinner, I’m thinking, THE BOX IS WAITING. While I’m yawning on the couch or practicing piano, THE BOX IS WAITING. I’ll do pretty much anything to avoid the box, including sitting on my butt until my eyes are closing (but not going to bed). But in the end, I must do the box.
This morning, Darling Husband was gone, and I thought about the box. And I realized that the idea of the CAT BOX BEAST waiting for me in the laundry room all day was just too much. I wasn’t even out of bed and I had already strapped that beast metaphorically on my back to carry it around with me all day. Ugh. Doesn’t that sound gross and awful? So I scooped the damn thing quickly (not even cursing!), and took the bag outside when I ran the dogs. CAT BOX BEAST SLAIN before 8:30 a.m!
When I pondered this post, the cat box wasn’t even my biggest monster. Oddly enough, the cat box beast is somewhat smaller than the BLOG BEAST.
I’ve written recently (and often) about my propensity for wanting to always put my best face forward, to not be seen to fail. (Hahahahahahahahaha!) I’m always trying to get things right, when there isn’t always a right to be gotten. And that counts double for my writing.
I didn’t really even make a conscious decision to blog every day back in late December. It just sort of happened. It sounded pleasurable. Okay, that’s not really true. It sounded terrifying. I decided to blog every day because I had been finding myself becoming more and more reluctant to talk to people. My voice felt lost, forced into fiction. Sure, I talked to my family and close friends. I posted on Facebook, etc., occasionally, but less often than I had. But I couldn’t bear the ugliness and negativity on there anymore. Everyone else’s panic began to overwhelm me. I needed to reach out, but from a place of my own. A safe place. (I dislike that term, but that’s what it is.) This is the place for me. This is an experiment, and every day it feels risky. (What if I say something stooooopid? It’s bound to happen, statistically, the more I talk.) Fiction is comparatively easy–it used to be the other way around for me, but sometime in the past couple of years that changed.
But my worries about what I will post here threaten to overwhelm me every day. And so I usually avoid writing/posting until late in the night. Sure, I get writing and other things done during the day, but I end up doing them in spite of the fact that the BLOG BEAST awaits. Finally, around ten or eleven p.m., my defenses break down and it feels a little easier because it MUST be done. It’s the beast that must be slain before dawn. Unfortunately, I also have to get up in the morning. It’s tough to slay a beast every night and then have to get up five hours later and do it all again. On top of this, some nights the FICTION BEAST ends up lurking just behind the BLOG BEAST. When this happens, I wake up in the morning after a few hours sleep with just minutes to spare to either take the boy to school or see him off. I drag on those mornings. Life feels very cramped when you’re not fully awake until eleven and must do something about dinner by six-thirty or seven. I’m a night owl, but not a happy night owl. Things are slipping. My skin (ah, vanity!) is showing signs of not repairing itself well. Exercising falls away because when it comes down to choosing between exercise or work, I must choose work. My life has narrowed once again.
How ironic that the thing I chose to do to reach out–blogging–is pushing me farther from the waking world. This needs to be addressed because it’s eating me up (and putting on weight, which is not good at my age).
Am I oversharing? Maybe. Whatever. This is my safe place. My place.
Both the BLOG BEAST and the CAT BOX BEAST are symptoms of other monsters. But slaying them daily and in a timely manner will, I hope, beat them both down to manageable size and help me deal with the issues propping up their monsterness. (Though, seriously, I don’t think I have any underlying issues with the cat box. It’s just…ew.)
So, with both the BLOG BEAST and the CAT BOX BEAST slain before dark today, I’m excited about moving ahead with the rest of the day. And maybe getting some good sleep tonight.
My plan is to look at the things I need/want to get done in the day, and do the most difficult thing first. Then, when that’s done, do the second and third and so on. Prioritizing is not one of my strengths–I come by my poor prioritizing skills honestly via my ADHD. I’m thinking that this might work better for me than just looking at my list and feeling overwhelmed with choices. I can get them done, then get to my creative work.
By dealing with the hard things first, you can clear your mind. Clear the field of lingering fear. Creativity and fear are rarely good partners. But when fears are dealt with–brought down to size, it makes room for creativity. More on this later, I suspect. These thoughts definitely connect with my Thursday post about doing one thing at a time.
Tell me about the monsters you need to slay. Or just shine the light on them for yourself. I bet they’re not as big as you think they are.
February 9th Words
Journal: 225 words
Long fiction: 0 words
Short fiction: 0
Non-fiction: 0 words
Blogging: 1470 words
Exercise: None. Spent all afternoon with the boy, who got his license today. (Yay!) Hoisted a celebratory Krispy Kreme and bought yoga pants.