Never really understood “being present”
Does anyone else ever feel like you have so many things you “should” be doing and so little time, it actually makes you anxious and distracts you from being present and enjoying it when you finally do have the time?
Yeah. One piece of advice I’ve heard is to write down all the things you need to do. Supposedly, that frees up your brain so that you don’t have to keep thinking about them while you’re doing other things.
One big thing I have found is that multi-tasking is a lie. Even my boss, who used to talk constantly about the value of multi-tasking, has changed his tune.
Whether or not you have a list, pick one thing, give it your full attention, and do it well. Then move on to the next thing. It works for getting out of debt (the “snowball” or “avalanche” method), for decluttering (Marie Kondo’s approach) and just in general for improving your life and being productive.
That said, I’m on this PC right now because I wrote down one work project that I was going to work on today, and instead I’m on the Dope. But I’m genuinely procrastinating, not just being disorganized and not knowing what to do next.
I’m easing into retirement by switching to part time work. This was done to give me some time to relax and my time enjoy with some income, while awaiting the Missus’ arrival at her milestones. My plans for large swaths of relaxation and reading seem to be upended by finding chores and projects that must be done. I have to learn that there will always be something that needs done, but it’s OK to walk away and go fishing.
My Dad (retired 25 years) says that our new “you’re on your own” economy/investments has caused a dichotomy. Those that are driven and ambitious enough to financially make it to retirement, are the ones who are unable to relax once they get there.
10 years ago, as a manager and software developer and part-time support guy, I did consider it a virtue to be able to switch projects instantly. But today, with new notifications coming in constantly, and maybe with my flexibility declining with age, I find I don’t have the ability to focus on anything for long, which is not a good thing.
At work, I’m experimenting with the Pomodoro approach: select a task, work on it for 25 minutes with no interruptions, then take a few minutes to relax (or check e-mail), lather/rinse/repeat. There are Pomodoro apps for that. It helps that I’m no longer in charge of a team or support, so that any e-mail can wait half an hour.
The “select a task” part can still be hard; I’ve been claiming to use GTD (“Getting Things Done”) for about 15 years now, and it helps; but a GTD expert would scoff at my methods.
That works for me at times. Every now and then I have to change up my method, though. Currently, it’s “pick one ghastly dreadful task and knock it out. Everything else is gravy.”
I’m still pondering what today’s ghastly dreadful task should be.
Oh, I never liked doing that. I had a job like that and it was the worst. I would have stuff due, meanwhile I would be getting all these ad-hoc calls for support or constantly having to switch gears from developing to project managing. I find it incredibly stressful because you can plan for anything, you just have to constantly react.
I’m actually reading a business book called “Making Work Visible” that describes this phenomenon.
But I’m finding that with a wife and two small children, that is what my personal life is turning into. Any time I sit down to do something, either the kids or my wife come into my room. “Daddy, I want to watch Doc McStuffins!”, “Honey, you peed on the bathroom floor!”, “Daddy! Can I have the Legos!”, “Honey! Can you read my application for this Women’s Leadership Program at work!?”
What I find is that it’s less about creating a list or Kanban board or whatever of stuff to do. It’s more like I am constantly on edge waiting for the next interruption. Even if it’s quiet, I know that any moment, someone is going to start screaming or crying or otherwise do something that requires my attention.
I am a recovering alcoholic and I traced my problem back to time management issues. I got it under control almost 30 years ago at the age of 40. I now keep a running list of things to do. The list has a time needed estimate as well as a cost estimate and a priority level. I used to put things on the list if I couldn’t do them right on the spot. Now they only go on the list if a couple of days have gone by and they are still not done. I have done very well with this in most areas as my list is almost always at 100% completion. The biggest challenge I still face and it was a major challenge through out my lifetime is preparing things to ship out. I have no idea why I struggle with this so much. Knowing my own weakness here I seldom make a commitment to ship something fast, if I do make that commitment I keep it. I have about 5 things right now I need to ship that would take me about 2 days to get ready, I have been sitting on them for almost a month. Making just a little progress here and there each day. Worrying about this has a negative affect on the quality of my life.
You paint a compelling picture - I feel great sympathy. (Except for peeing on the floor. Don’t do that. :D)
Could you and your wife agree to “rope off” some time where one of you is the Responsible Parent Who Will Only Call for Help in an Emergency while the other is in the study reading? You’ll need to agree to be each other’s enforcer for this. It might mean physically going somewhere else, to the gym or to a coffee shop, because kids are really hard to escape.
Or maybe Parent Shifts are just too complicated for you two to coordinate right now. Could you make an agreement that on certain nights, after the kids are in bed and whatever prep for the next day is done, it’s officially down time? No work. No problem solving. Just chill.
I know these are easier said than done. But it sounds like you need real, defined down time. That’s part of self-care. It’s important.
I get it. I think it’s a combination of having a high-stress / high-engagement job and one or more kids under the age of 6.
When I wake up, my priorities are getting myself bathed, getting the kid out the door, and skimming emails from the India team on my phone.
When I make it to the office, I’m 100% engaged in work.
When I get home, I’m making dinner or entertaining the kid, checking emails in case some asshole West Coast go-getter decides to blow something up, getting the kid bathed and put to bed, and listening to my wife complain about her day.
I’ve come to savor the half hour on Saturdays that I take to drop off my shirts at the cleaners.
Yeah, I have 3 days off each week. As long as I can point to something that I have accomplished, even if it took only a little time, then I feel good. Last weekend I got my chainsaw started, (it had been a year or so), and cut up a tree that had fallen. Took about an hour.
Went to the local tavern for a couple hours of beers and conversation.
Yes, I always feel like I should be doing something else, and it’s usually true, since I’m a champion procrastinator.
So then I just go sit in a corner with books or browse SDMB until I feel better about my stress levels. Obviously this helps the “I have a bunch of tasks that I haven’t yet completed and I’m stressed about that” problem immeasurably [/s]
I’ve come to accept that my life is mostly unimpactful to the overall process of civilization. I’ve also started making peace in the fact that by a wide range of important metrics, I’m below average and behind the curve compared to where I think I should be. Meanwhile, I don’t know if I know how to catch up.
So I don’t feel there are 100s of tasks that need my attention. I’ve never been one of those people who feels an overpowering compulsion to mow the lawn rather than sit and do nothing. I more feel like my goal in life at this point is just to earn enough money to feed and shelter myself, and then just enjoy my downtime since I’m not really that important to the overall process of life anyway. Plus I’ve lived my life weird, and I don’t really like putting myself out there for fear of judgment when I eventually say or do the wrong thing.
I do sometimes wonder if there are more impactful ways to live on this planet. I want to make sure the next generation have a better life than our generation did and I worry about climate change, health care, income inequality, resource depletion, plutocracy, authoritarianism, etc and how it’ll affect them. I’m basically in the 7th stage of Erikson’s 8 stages and my answer is that I probably can’t affect the outcome of these things much. I can vote but thats about it.