It’s not what you’re doing, it’s how you’re trying to do it

Over the past several months, I’ve learned a lot about how I’m best able get things done – especially at work. Since working from home during quarantine, I found I had a lot of resistance surrounding getting simple tasks done that really should not have been an issue. At first, I thought it was because I was in a new environment (for working), but then I remembered that I felt resistance all the time when at the office.

I then just chalked it up to hating working, questioning why working is a thing, and cursing the person who came up with the idea of having to work for money (quarantine does crazy things to your headspace!). Obviously, being negative and cursing people who are long-gone weren’t going to solve my problem.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized what my problem is. It wasn’t so much the actual work that needed to get done – it was how I was going about trying to do it. I thought back to my days in school when I was always on top of my game, hardly procrastinated, and more importantly was actually excited and in the mood to do my work.

I racked my brain until I remembered that the one thing I had always done to stay on track. I planned ahead. I had my syllabi with all of the required coursework and a schedule of exams for the whole semester. Further, I wrote everything down in my planner. I wrote down my assignments, tests, work schedule, and important things in my personal life. I was also a paper person: I would print out all my notes and take handwritten notes in class instead of trying to type them on my laptop (like everyone else). And, I made an outline for all my papers.

A lightbulb went off when I remembered this. I realized that I’m resistant at work because I don’t plan ahead and I don’t work in a way that is most efficient for me. Sure, I write some cool notes on a Post-It, but other than that I try and work in a haphazard way, every day. A way that is not natural to me. I don’t look ahead and just take things as they come. As a type-A person, this quickly turns into frustration and lots of eye-rolls.

I started to realize that each day, I was flying blind. I was trying to work on projects without a plan of action or an “outline.” I was trying to “go with the flow,” which left me scrambling each day – signing into work and getting lost in emails and ad-hoc requests, feeling so overwhelmed that I felt defeated and like I just didn’t want to work anymore (dramatic, I know).

So, what did I do to fix this?

I thought back to my younger days and started to implement the same tactics to get things done as I did when I was in school, for example. Instead of coming into my work day blind and unprepared, I now map out my daily tasks on my calendar (in addition to meetings) so I know coming in what needs to get done. I also schedule a timeframe to do my daily tasks, so I’m not just responding to emails and requests all day without completing projects.

Since I know I’m a paper person, I decided to ask for forgiveness later and just print things out! I know I’m able to focus better and retain the things I read if they are in hard copy format. Spending months trying to conform to society’s standards by trying to read articles and reports on a computer screen was a total waste (and very annoying in the process). I’m much more efficient and my reading comprehension sucks a lot less when I have a physical copy. I’m willing to take that up with God later on.

Since implementing these tactics, I find I’m able to get through the work day without feeling as anxious and spacey. Sure, it takes a bit more work and forecasting at first, but this is what works for me. I’ve even found that this works in other areas of my life as well.

With exercise, for a while, I was trying to force myself to be a runner and to do calisthenics. I found myself resistant to the point where I just would not do any of it and then feel off from not moving my body at all. And it’s not because I hate exercising, it’s because running and calisthenics are not the kinds of exercise I enjoy. I could just chalk it up to hating exercise and deciding it’s not for me. Or, I could find what works and just do what I enjoy. So since then, I’ve been lifting weights and walking and I actually look forward to my workouts.

So, what’s this got to do with YOU?

I say all of this to say that if you’re struggling with getting things done, it might not be the THING itself. It could just be your method. There’s a reason we feel resistant to some things and not others. Pay attention to what makes you feel icky and what makes you feel good and propels you forward. Of course, most of us would rather not have to work for a living or exercise to be healthy, but maybe those things aren’t so bad.

Life is not only about doing what makes you happy; it’s also about doing the things that you would rather not do, but doing them in a way that feels best to you. Don’t try to imitate other people and do things a certain way just because it seems right. It might be right for them, but not so much for you. Life is an experiment. It may take a few tries, but life’s so much easier when you’re being true to yourself and doing things in such a way that feels good for you (and not because Sally on Instagram told you so).

If you’re having a hard time focusing on your goals, try to sit down with yourself and figure out where the disconnect is. You have goals because they are important to you and you shouldn’t dismiss them just because the ONE way you’ve tried to achieve them doesn’t feel right. Take a look at your methods and see what you can tweak to move you forward. Let me know how it goes!

Melina Renee

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