Day 2 wasn’t bad.  In between negotiations with my organization’s director, meeting an entrepreneur, cleaning my house with my cleaner (I always do that, more on that in another post), and connections with some key people in my industry who will be critical in helping us get funded, I mostly spent the day preparing for an upcoming trip dedicated to moving and shaking.  You could say I am training for my marathon next week.  You could say I am building momentum.

(And yes, I successfully practiced link and balance, but did mess up a little bit where I had more than 30g of carbs for dinner and immediately felt the difference.  Kaizen!)

One of the books I am reading, in lieu of not having ANY formal business training and starting a new venture, is the insanely insightful My Personal MBA.  I was shocked to find an entire section dedicated to “working with yourself”.  While I can go on and on about how amazing this book is and how brilliant this kid Josh Kaufman is, I will focus this post on one particular concept that hit home for me.  I have been overcome by Akrasia for quite some time, even though I was convinced that I am one of the most goal-driven people I know.  The Personal MBA Guru Josh Kaufman tells us that akrasia is the primary barrier to getting things done and here’s why:

 

There are seven primary causes of akrasia:

1. You can’t define what you want.

2. You feel the task will bring you closer to something you don’t want.

3. You can’t figure out how you’re going to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.

4. You idealize the desired End Result to the point your mind estimates a low probability of achievement, resulting in Loss Aversion.

5. The “should” was established by someone else, not you, prompting Persuasion Resistance.

6. A competing action in the current Environment promises immediate gratification, while the reward of the task in question will come much later.

7. The benefits of the action are abstract and distant, while other possible actions will provide concrete and immediate benefits.

By these standards, I experience akrasia…a lot.  You could say I lead an “akratic life.” And this is why a psychologist recently diagnosed me with ADHD.  I tend to experience akrasia when I have a large, looming project and I am unsure of the next steps (for example: become a prolific writer – should I be spending my time writing blogs or paid professional gigs?  do I have good ideas so that I can query editors?  Who are the editors?  Why isn’t my system/spreadsheet set up yet where I have everyone’s names and access information?  Should I spend my time building my systems and then querying?).  After five focused years of practicing the principles of self-development and achievement, I am convinced that even if I took a pill I wouldn’t be able to know these answers.  The right answer is a combination of all of these, and sometimes I have trouble prioritizing, for which this sabbatical has helped me tremendously in putting the systems in place, and a plan to do the rest.

I also experience akrasia when I have a deadline for a task that I have idealized and when I have idealized my own (awesome) input for that task (for example: My director asks me to write a one-page  proposal, I spend 6 days doing everything else to “prepare myself” and to “learn more” and to “learn how”, and then work on it at the last minute).  After enough experiences, I know that the best thing to do is to start the document right away, keep iterating, and learning by doing.

In order to combat akrasia, when I actually become conscious of an akratic situation, I still don’t always begin the task.  I simply spend time with something else on my list that I should be doing.

Here are some ways I avert being afflicted by akratic situations:

  • Establish Success, Goals, Tasks, Habits, and Routines.  This links to my principle of living a successful, intentional life. 
  • Use my Pomodoro Technique via my Chrome plugin or iPhone 25 minute timer to Get things done: Do 1 thing per session.  For example, when blogging: I write a blog post in 25 minutes or less, and then add links and images and publish in 25 minutes or less.  This links to my principle of doing one thing at a time, systematically.
  • If I’m stuck, I work on a different goal (a technique I learned from The Art of Procrastination) or do something completely different (techniques I learned from the seminal Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking toolkit).  Go to the gym or a farmer’s market (to meet my healthy, vibrant well-being goal), go for a coffee and read a book or visit a museum (to meet my self-development goal), call a friend, family member, or work on a family blog post (to meet my engaged social life goals), spend an evening or weekend doing something wildly different (to meet my adventure goals).  This links to my life principle of applying creative thinking and non-linear approaches to everyday problems.  
  • I allocate 100% extra time to a project, depending on how gnarly it is.  I measure my achievements by the difference between how long I thought it would take, how long I scheduled it to take, and how long it actually took.  This links to my principle of doing what I say, and saying what I do. 

What have I achieved in the past one month of my deliberate attempts to gain momentum in my life?  

  • Established a new daily routine with enough legroom and diversions built-in for akratic moments.  
  • Embarked on a new career journey.
  • Practiced extreme self-care: putting myself first, not overwhelming myself, regular exercise, acupuncture, linking-and-balancing (my new new thing).

Becoming a prolific writer permeates all of my central life goals.  

  1. Writing helps me clear my mind, which helps me meditate better.  
  2. Writing puts me in a flow state, giving me dopamine and making me less likely to eat mindlessly.
  3. Writing helps me feel more optimistic, actually – invincible, and this helps my performance when I am writing for reals and when I am in meetings.
  4. Writing helps me pay my bills: As I sharpen my skills, reduce the number of hours that go into akratic moments, and build my portfolio, there is no way to go but up.
  5. Writing makes me happy.

What are my prolific writing goals for today?

  1. Write my morning pages on Becoming Prolific (planned: 25 minutes; actual 2 hours)
  2. (want to do) Finish reading My Personal MBA (2 hours while working out, coffee, down time)
  3. (want to do) Write a blog post for my personal blog (1 hour, 2 hours with room)
  4. (need to do) Write up a draft of a content strategy document (3 hours, 6 hours with room)
  5. (need to do) Write the one-page paper (3 hours, 5 hours with room)
  6. Work on my habits + routines + systems (30 minutes)
  7. Review and reflect, plan for tomorrow (30 minutes)
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I’ve been moping around this blog for a quite a while talking about what I want to do and how I’m not doing it. I’ve literally been feeling INERT, LISTLESS, and INVISIBLE.  So, I’ll use this space to not necessarily make wild proclamations of what I’m going to do.  Instead, I’ll focus on what is. …

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Yes, I went through a bit of a jam.  A break with my everyday reality.  It was scary, but I jumped from my full-time job to pursue my passion wholeheartedly.  I’m in, you know.  But I’d been inert, comatose, and inexpressive for so long.  For so long, a part of me remained so silent.  And the other part of me, so creative, bubbly, and vibrant.

Here I am again.  Dedicating myself to the craft.  I can’t find my copy of Elements of Style.  I might have put it back in the boxes…again, as I await the perfect moment, for the perfect bookshelf, for the perfect room.  I’ve given up perfection for real.  Well, what do you know?  The universe does want me to succeed.  Amazon’s offering a free kindle copy of the book!

These past few months I’ve been reading a lot.  Reading books about self-development, international development and theory, literary journalism.  Less blogs and such.  I even started a book club!  I am coming up with a content strategy for a few of my new endeavors…to build momentum, you know?  To become prolific.

I am writing, you know, but just not here.  I’m writing proposals (to win support and money), content strategies (to earn value), correspondence, academic papers…

Why am I so hell-bent on writing here?  What is it?  I think I just want to have a space where I can practice the art of becoming a writer.  Test literary ideas.  Share stories of my endeavor. Commune with the literary soul of the world wide web…you know, with my tribe…of writers.

(c) Image by Mikolette

I first listened to Alicia Keys in a secluded college cafe. Every time I hear her sing I think of those days. You see, I went to a rather large university of over 30,000 students and a half a dozen undergraduate colleges. Each of my core classes had at least 200 students each. Every few days I would make my way over to this secluded campus and attempt to do my homework, learn a theorem, write a paper, read a chapter, you know. This was before wifi.

And I would be alone. So I would eat. Whenever anxiety gnawed at me, little did I understand that I could nourish her with a workout, an hour with a writing tutor, or an hour co-working with a friend. A coach??? They were for the popular athletic kids. A tutor??? But I know how to write and study! Studying *with* someone? Whom?

So I ate. Being vegetarian, I mostly ate bagels. Lots of bagels. Bad bagels, fresh bagels. Bagels with butter. Bagels with cream cheese.

This continued years later in graduate school. I would go to a local cafe to procrastinate — I thought I was being productive (long hours at the cost of everything else = success, right??). Many days I smoked, too.

Fast forward to today. In times of anxiety, I find a secluded cafe where no one knows me and I eat. I drink fancier coffee, eat real bagels, and vegan pastries. But I eat. Sometimes I light a cigarette, but mostly I just eat.

The next few days are an attempt to actively turn each eating opportunity into an exercise opportunity. A healthy meals opportunity. A nap opportunity. A phone a friend opportunity. My work will go on in chunks of 2 hours. I will eat, but with loved ones — amidst laughter and a beautiful memory.

Their surname was inscripted upon their shiny black and white striped door.  That was the most fashionable entry door in all of India House.  The word “Chhedda” looked like white icing across a horizontal black section of the door.  Through this door was joy, laughter, love.  The Chhedas were my second family.

Hiding away. One last coffee break – one last opportunity to indulge in time one’s own. One last page to read. One last menial task to finish. Alas, the end of an illustrious weekend full of “now isms” that inevitably keep one from here … That is until now. The 10th hour is approaching fast.

“I want to do this. I want to make this happen. I’ve taken too many steps to turn back now,” she said.

“What are you waiting for, then?” He asked in an off-handed manner, half listening and half peering into the distance, looking for the horizon to his boredom.

“I can’t seem to get started,” she admitted. “I don’t know if I will be good enough. Will this be in vain? Will I shame myself once and for all?”

“Look Amanda,” Jared snapped out of his semi-checked out state. “You want this thing so badly. Half ego, half legit, but wholly yours. This thing, it’s meant for you. Channel your energy into telling them why you want it. Write for your life.”

Now it was Amanda’s turn to look away. What am I waiting for?

No matter what job I have, I can’t help but feel that I am not where I need to be.  I can’t help but feel insecure.  

This post is a meditation to uncover what jobs and roles help me feel the ground beneath my feet and accomplished.

 

I know.  That’s a gnarly image.  But it also evokes a solid state of accomplishment. Of declaration.  I’m here.  100% present tense HERE.

It may be the precarious nature of my current job, my desire for a doctorate education.  It may be that I was laid off, had one terrible experience in grad school.  It may be that the cat got my tongue.  It may be that I was always looking for something else.  That each class and job had been a past-time activity till I got to where I needed to go.  I tried to focus on the moment, and learned early on that “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”.  But I want so much out of life.  A job that makes me feel stable.  A writing career.  A business start-up.  A PhD.  At the same time, the cat’s got my tongue.  I can’t write my statement of purpose with ease, start this business, send out a single query, or leave this job and find a new one.  From the outside, all’s not so bad.  I am a success.  Beautiful home, beautiful husband, great job.  But I feel like I was meant to be doing something else.  And yes, I am on my path to doing that… but…what’s holding me back from standing tall and being out there?  Why am I wasting hours and hours of precious time, amounting to a decade and then some.

I’m following some tools out there to do this exercise.

What I want:

To be able to wake up and not feel compelled to sit down and start writing only to stare at the screen and get up 3 hours later rushing to get the actual day started.  In the back of my mind thinking about other possibilities throughout the day, daydreaming through life.  To truly enjoy homemaking, making time for friends.  I am so in my mind – that I want to be able to be just focused.

My Beliefs (recorded from the past several weeks): 

I need something else to be successful.  

need to spend lots of hours trying to write my statement of purpose and figuring out graduate school applications.  

I don’t have time to exercise.  

I can leave the shopping / groceries / doing x till the last minute – I don’t need to do it now because it’s not a priority.  I have time.  We have the whole long weekend to relax.  

I will get SO much done! I will get EVERYTHING done.  I will finish my essay, send out 100 job applications, send out 100 emails to friends, colleagues, contacts, finish a draft of my applications, and study for the GREs.  

I find myself so stressed out mentally when I do things like this.  I feel that I’ve lost time, haven’t read anything positive or substantial aside from blog posts on self-help, and lost the window to exercise.  And to boot, no draft of essay, no query, no article to post, zilch.

Reversing My Beliefs

I’m following this model.

SUCCESSFUL:

1.  I need something else to be successful.

Is this true?  Yes.

Is this 100% true?  No.

What is this limiting belief doing to me?  This is causing me to second-guess myself, be uncertain, and be insecure.  This is causing me to spend countless hours exploring possibilities (but never really acting upon them).  If I knew that I had everything I needed to be successful and that my to-do list was manageable, I would just stop spending all this time thinking and sitting down to write.  I would probably just know what to say and write, I would probably just schedule things like writing, studying, working, exercising, cooking, time with friends, and so on.

Who would I be without this limiting belief?  I would be calm, happy.  I would read for reading’s sake.  I would clean, work out, be a happy homemaker with a flexible schedule, be a successful professional / writer, I would be a mother.  I would know what I want and I would not be afraid to speak up for it.  This whole drive to be “successful” is just driving me mad.

Why do I want to get a PhD?  I want to immerse myself in the world of ideas and become adept at the methodologies, form arguments, defend ideas, advance knowledge in my field, and train incoming students in this field.  I want to feel competent in my job, in my writing, and I want the chance to learn and grow consciously.

SUCCESS = LOTS OF TIME

2.  need to spend lots of hours trying to write my statement of purpose and figuring out graduate school applications.  

Is this true?  No.

What is the limiting belief doing to me ? Causing me to go in circles and second guess myself, leaving me utterly wordless and essayless.

Who would I be without this limiting belief?  My thoughts are clear, and clearly make their way onto the page.  I go through a process of writing — multiple drafts, feedback from others, edits, professional editor if necessary, gut check, rewrites, final draft, polish.  I would spend my extra time on working out, making lovely meals for my family, and reading quality literature, and WRITING. 🙂

NO TIME FOR ANYTHING ELSE:

3.  I don’t have time to exercise.  

Is this true?  No.

What is this limiting belief doing to me?  Making me FAT.

Who would I be without this limiting belief?  Realistic about my time.  Slender, beautiful, HEALTHY.

DEEP PROCRASTINATION

4.  I can leave the shopping / groceries / doing x till the last minute – I don’t need to do it now because it’s not a priority.  I have time.  We have the whole long weekend to relax.  

Is this true?  No – Gotta do it now to have the time later.

What is this limiting belief doing to me?  Leaving me in states of frenzy that I need lots of downtime to recover from.

Who would I be without this limiting belief?  A mature, time-realistic adult.

UNREALISTIC NOTIONS OF TIME

5. I will get SO much done! I will get EVERYTHING done.  I will finish my essay, send out 100 job applications, send out 100 emails to friends, colleagues, contacts, finish a draft of my applications, and study for the GREs.  

Is this true?  NO.

What is this limiting belief doing to me?  Leaving me hopelessly ambitious and devastatingly disappointed.

Who would I be without this limiting belief?  Someone who makes realistic plans for each day, sets mid-term goals, and long-term goals and actually achieves them.

 

Wow.  This is crazy.  What are my goals for today?

 

1. Spend time writing essay (GONE)

2. Go for a short hike. (2 hours)

3. Make my last-minute thanksgiving items for friend’s place tonight.  (2 hours)

4. Get ready and look fabulous. (1 hour)

5. Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with friends. (5 hours)

6. IF TIME: finalizing my programs, proposed advisors, and people to contact.  IF TIME: organizing my essay thoughts into something of a very very scrappy outline – pretend I’m talking to a friend on the phone about what I would like to accomplish. (2 hours)

Hours left till I go to bed: 12

 

Goals for 2012: Apply to PhD programs. Be realistic about time.

 

Enough said. Signing off.