Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Breaking up with Lazy

Since it's July, I have been going back over my plans for the year and checking in on progress.  These plans are a mixtures of goals and resolutions which I carry around with me everywhere I go, the pages in my notebook marked with a helpful bright-pink tab to make it easy to find my way back.  

I've also been checking in on our Small, Medium, Large projects lists and crossing off any accomplishments we forgot to cross off (small water feature: done!).  So satisfying to be able to cross things off, naturally, but I know, deeply, that the lists are a smidge of a distraction, that what really matters is progress toward bigger goals, like more peace in my daily life or its negative expression, less anxiety, which in turns means better sleep and fewer headaches.

I've been helped immeasurably this year by Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, which I read sometime in the early months.  This morning I'm thinking particularly of "Tackle a Nagging Task," in her first chapter, "Boost Happiness."

About a month ago, I wrote about Breaking up with Crazy, something which wasn't included in my plans for the year, but which emerged as an important step in my personal happiness.  So far, BUWC has been a big boon to me, though my eyebrows might disagree.  Yesterday, I realized that Breaking up with Lazy is an equally important component of where I am headed this year. 

The Lazy I speak of here is entirely my own, and I'm aware as I use that word that it's pretty negative and that it doesn't necessarily cut me any slack.  That's deliberate.  The Lazy I accuse myself of is procrastination around unpleasant tasks, whether they're regular tasks like doing my bit as CFO of our family business -- sending invoices, writing contracts, paying bills, doing the tax work -- or not-so-regular tasks like clearing up a mess on a student loan.  

What's nuts about this Lazy is that generally none of these tasks I'm procrastinating are truly unpleasant for me at all.  I love the family business work, in fact, but like a baby, rebel against having to work when I get home from work or on the weekends, when I just want to have fun.  I love everything being clear and organized and paid, but sometimes I just waste time and energy whining about how much I just want to be free of endless work, so then I don't do the work, and then I feel freaked out, and then up against a deadline I work like a fiend to get things done.  Exhausting.

Last week I wrote in my calendar:

Figure shit out this week, aka
why do I alternate between stupor and frenzy?  
Surely there is middle ground?

[Also I wrote that I need new flats and to return a dress to Anthro, but that's not relevant here.]

Enter Breaking up with Lazy.  Duh, that's where the middle ground is.  Yes, I need time to slack off, do nothing and be a sloth.  But I can't even enjoy that time unless I am more disciplined at other times, getting my work done so that I can fully relax when the opportunity to do so presents itself.  Duh, seriously.  And yeah, this only occurred to me yesterday, in its fullness.  I amaze myself.  

BUWL has many aspects.  It's as simple as ensuring that my living space is tidy, no clothes on the floor, no dirty dishes in the sink, no over-due library books, just staying on top of the regular stuff.  I am so much happier when things are clear and neat.  Some people thrive in clutter, but that ain't me.

BUWL is less simple, taking care of things that are a pain in the ass, like my yesterday 30-minute phone call with Sallie Mae to clear up a mess with a student loan.  This situation had really escalated to crisis point -- a letter about default, endless incoming phone calls at all hours from 800 numbers, causing me a ceaseless undercurrent of anxiety even though I knew it was a simple misunderstanding, that they were wrong -- and I couldn't ignore it any longer.  One phone call, one investment of thirty minutes of my work-day, and the whole thing is sorted.  

The amount of relief I felt was immense, such a weight lifted off of me.  Why did I wait so damn long to do this for myself?  Who, really, was benefiting from months of avoidance?

As Gretchen writes, 
An important aspect of happiness is managing your moods, and studies show that one of the best ways to lift your mood is to engineer an easy success, such as tackling a long-delayed chore.  I was astounded by the dramatic boost in my mental energy that came from taking care of these neglected tasks.
Amen, sister.

So really, this is it.  I am Breaking up with Lazy, too.  Which means I'll probably get to that task on my list above.  If you look closely, on the right hand side under the Financial category, you'll see it says, "pay bills early."  Yeah, I'm not going to be content with doing things on-time.  That's not good enough, that's a backslide into anxiety and frenzy.  No way.

For real and lasting personal peace and happiness, I am Breaking up with Lazy.  If it's anything like Crazy, I won't miss it.  I'll just be way happier without it.  

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