Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Games we play

A blog entry by a friend set me to thinking about goals and the games I play with myself to accomplish them. It's funny, isn't it, how you can know you're just fooling yourself, yet it can still work?

Being a natural organizer and list-maker, I find the planning to be the easy part. I take a deep breath, I shove down the sensation of being hopelessly overwhelmed by the immensity of the task, and I break The Big Task into several smaller and less frightening steps. And, being me, I put those steps into written list form. It's the doing I sometimes trip over. Having the list in written format is, in itself, a big motivator for me--especially if I have it out where I can see it, and it can nag me every time I glance at it. Loose ends bug me. Loose ends that are out in the open and glaring at me bug me even more.

Starting is the hard part. No matter how badly I want to do something, it is almost ALWAYS a chore to get myself going on it, especially if it's an ongoing project that I have to work on day after day after day--like, you know, writing. Especially if I don't really know what I'm doing next, but sometimes even when I do.

The trick I play to get myself started at all is simple but (usually) effective:

"I'll just work on it for ten minutes. If at the end of ten minutes I still don't feel like working, I'll stop."

You'd be surprised at how absorbed you can get in working on something in ten minutes. Very often, I'll glance to see if the ten minutes are up yet and find that it's been 30 minutes. Or an hour. There's something about giving the grumbling, resistant part of my personality permission to call a halt that subdues it enough to let the part of me interested in pursuing the story to take over.

And y'know, if by some chance I don't get absorbed within the ten minutes, then I keep my bargain with myself. I agree to come back later, at an appointed time, and try it for ten more minutes under the same terms, and I walk away. It's still ten minutes of work that I wouldn't have done otherwise, and when I try to cut a deal with myself the next time, myself trusts me to keep my part of the deal and is willing to give it another shot.

Myself has to trust somebody, after all.

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