Boundaries, Imperfection, Self-Care, Shame

Sixty Percent Productivity

A friend the other day said she heard Gregg McKeown say something like: Expecting people to be productive every minute of the day is unrealistic. You can only assume 60% productivity. 

As a rule, humans are pretty bad at estimating how long project will take. A rule of thumb in construction, as I understand it, is to estimate the amount of time a project will take then multiply by two. That math lines up pretty well with the supposed Gregg McKeown quote.

Which is all to say if you think you’re working at 60% capacity, you may well be  close to working at 100%. But more, we often expect and demand far too much out of ourselves and others. It seems that It’s only when we get really honest with ourselves about what we can do consistently, and plan for that, that we begin to approach what appears to be a superhuman 110%.  

Getting really honest doesn’t mean getting draconian, overbearing, and unkind. It means observing what I do and reporting on it without judgment. Seeing what my strengths are. Seeing where I could probably get more done by not attempting to do anything. And finally, doing what seems to be a kryptonite for me—asking for help when I need it.  

Boundaries, Imperfection, Practice, Resistance, Self-Care

Intentionally start and intentionally stop

I was speaking today with creative friends about out work today.  

We’ve each rolled around to where the work is a drag. One friend is feeling dried up. Another is struggling with back pain; it’s literally painful for her to sit. Me? I’ve been feeling worn down, dried up, and a bit overwhelmed.  

How to deal with writers block and dry spells is an age old question. The three of us met in a Seth Godin workshop. He’s in the writers write, plumbers plumb school on the subject—you won’t hear about a plumber having plumber’s block, why should a writer get to have writer’s block.   

That said, one friend pointed out plumbers take vacations. Plumbers take personal days from time to time.  

I think many writers get superstitious about taking days off. I know I often believe that one day off leads to two (months).  

The same friend suggested this: intentionally start and intentionally stop. As I’m writing this, those words seem to have all the punch of a joke you had to be there for. But the procrastination that keeps me from my work feels at best semi-intentional, and really seems to happen in a kind ritualized somnambulance. Intention feels like a real answer.  I could simply start with intention—then stop.  

Boundaries, Imperfection, Self-Care

Losing Five Minutes

My computer wouldn’t load properly when I hopped on the bus this morning, so I’ve spent the last five minutes staring at a grey screen and Apple’s swirling beach ball of death as the computer reloaded and came back on line. I am, in a word, frustrated.   

It goes without saying it’s hard to concentrate when I’m frustrated. Along with the frustration, feeding it even, is the sense I should start writing the moment I find a seat on the bus.  

Get to work! 

I do have a schedule I aim to hew to, but if I miss five minutes—even ten minutes—of this morning will so much have gone wrong? And if missing five minutes of my routine on a nominal, average, dull morning is such a problem, mightn’t something more be amiss?  

It certainly would be preferable if five minutes here or there weren’t going make or break my day. Sure, there are days when I have places to go, people to see, planes to catch, etc. But it wouldn’t be preferable if the loss of five minutes didn’t send me into a tizzy? 

Boundaries, Imperfection, Shame

It’s about Their Experience

I’ve worked as a server in restaurants to earn my living for the past twenty years. In the industry, I’ve been taught if a mistake has been made it’s a faux pas to explain to a guest that it was busy, or that the restaurant was understaffed.  It shouldn’t be the guest’s concern that the restaurant is busy.  

Part of what a guest is investing in when they make a reservation is the experience the restaurant has promised to deliver on. 

Of course restaurants get busy.  And sometimes understaffing happens.  But when something goes wrong and  I explain the circumstances which I claim caused the mistake, the focus shifts to my experience.

If something goes wrong, it’s better to do your best to connect with the guest, own up to the mistake and make amends.  

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Boundaries, Imperfection, Self-Care, Writing

No Really, How much Time Does it Take?

I’ve been living by the seat my pants in terms of how I do The Work the last few weeks. At first when I returned to my job, it felt like I could handle everything, (my job and all the whims I have regarding The Work), and indefinitely. But no one can really function that way. It makes a body moody and resentful.   

Over the past few weeks I’ve been beginning to reconfigure the whole operation. There are some questions it seems I have to come to terms with, (and figure out realistic answers to). 

What do I want to do? —I always want to do everything. 

What can I actually do? —I can’t actually do everything, though I often want to believe that I can.

How long will it take to do it?  —Probably longer than I suspect, but in general any task I set if front of myself is finite and can be completed in some amount of time.   

No really, how much time does it take?  —This usually requires doing it a few times to get a rough estimate so I can schedule it out. 

What is enough?  —It’s my work, I get to decide. And there has to be an enough. If there isn’t I’ll never stop, or more likely burn out.  

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