NOT doing is one of the disciplines I and my clients seem to struggle with.
I have something that needs to be done! Why can’t I just do it NOW!
I personally feel this impulse when the things on my current to-do list don’t excite me. Often, this lack of excitement is a result of the task being in that dreaded dip. The grinding part where I am too far from the start to stop and too far from the goal to see it. The part where I just have to suck it up and do the work for the sake of the work.
I also encounter this feeling when I find I suddenly have some slack. The temptation to fill that slack with more work is great. Particularly in our hustle/grind/just do it environment. Being busy allows me to avoid more uncomfortable activities, such as self-reflection.
“Busy” is a badge of honor. We can justify busy to others. Reflecting and integrating looks a lot like “doing nothing” and, therefore, is much harder to explain.
Filling the slack, or starting another “new” thing when I have other things to do, is hazardous.
The “new” thing invariably takes more time, energy, and resources than initially predicted. “This will be quick” is a signal that I am about to lose focus on the important things I need to be doing.
The “new” thing still leaves all the “old” things unfinished; noshing away at my cognitive load and energetic resilience.
The “new” thing adds to the workload. It only takes 1 or 2 “new” things and the unfinished “old” things to find myself suddenly over-worked and stressed.
Occasionally, I get impatient because I have a thing that I know needs to be done in the future. My ego wants to “get ahead.”
Another warning that I am about to go off track is the voice that says, “If I get this done now, I’ll be ahead of the game.” This voice has caused me more work than any other voice I have in my head.
Certain activities need to happen in a certain order. For example, if I decide to do a rewrite of a chapter while the chapter is out for review and before I have received the feedback, I’ve just doubled my workload. I will still need to do the rewrite.
The discipline of finishing what I have started and staying focused on what I need to do right now is, for me, one of the most challenging disciplines I practice.
It requires saying “not yet” to great ideas and opportunities – some of which may pass me by.
It requires having faith that the work I am currently doing will result in a positive outcome.
It requires being OK with not “getting ahead” of my tasks.
It requires being OK with giving myself some slack when I am blessed with it.