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TMTF: Tips from Another Life

Ever have trouble getting things done? No, of course not! Whoever would imagine such a thing???

In this society, it seems we’re always trying to do Too Much, Too Fast. And it’s not only our accuracy and creativity that suffers from this tsunami of tasks, is it? Our bodies rebel. Our minds zone out or race in feverish circles. Our hearts are anxious, contracted, fearful rather than loving.

Nor is it only during our work week, if we have one, that the TMTF syndrome shows up. After our official work hours there are all those other background tasks looking at us reproachfully from their perches on our desk, kitchen counters, diningroom table—the to-do’s that keep our house from falling down, our kids and pets from whining or rebelling, the tax folks from sending us ominous letters… etc., etc., etc. And that’s just the day-to-day. Then there are the longer-term projects that languish in the garage, the yard, the closet, the desk drawers…

This may seem like an odd topic for a deep-work psychotherapist and spiritual health coach to address. Yet a large number of my clients say “not getting things done” is the biggest anxiety-producer for them. And following right on their heels are the clients who tell me they are getting the basics done—but it is taking all their waking hours. And while their minds are in agreement that all these things must be done, their bodies and hearts are whispering, then shouting, “I didn’t come here just to work! I vote no!”

Health and wholeness are hard even to imagine, let alone manifest, when there’s an inner civil war underway. It's true that inner self-sabotage can certainly have its origins long ago and far away, and if so, we can go there and clear that. But for most clients I’ve found it pays to look at the practical issues first. Is there a way I can help them first with the outer load, then (if necessary) see if there are inner blocks as well? It’s not always about outdated decisions and stored trauma, is it?

No, it’s not. Life is lived here and now, after all—and being lived in a complex, demanding environment that seems to leave little time for anything but work, work, work. We can try rebelling outright, but that will tend to throw us in jail or onto the street. So work it is. But we DO need time for rest, for love, for creativity, for fun. We aren’t fully human without these other necessities of life. What to do with all the Too Much, Too Fast demands of both our official and our after-hours workdays? Can we somehow work smarter, not harder?

And here’s where my “other life” comes in. In my ten years as a management development consultant to some very large corporations and organizations, I accumulated a great pile of data on the perceived causes of poor job performance. To my surprise, both workers and managers agreed that poor work habits were a far bigger factor in under-performance than lack of job-specific skills. The three areas of greatest need were:

Initiative: the ability to begin a task in plenty of time to complete, review and correct it, without a push from an authority figure or the adrenaline “hit” of a fast-approaching deadline or other crisis.

Pacing: the ability to maintain enthusiasm, clarity and stamina by honoring the natural rhythms of both body and mind.

Focus: the ability to stay mentally present to the task while working, then switch mental gears completely while away from the task.

Each of the three posts below offers Working Smart Tools to help you master one of these skills. Some tools will apply more to “official” work, others to a wider range of tasks; some will fit better with longer projects, some with shorter ones. I hope you’ll find something there that will help you get going and stick with it, renew your energy and sense of accomplishment, and quite possibly free up some time for fun!

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