Acceptance

24 Oct

There’s a lot of talk thrown around in spirituality about “acceptance.” This is one of those philosophies that if implemented would be incredibly powerful, but is far easier said than done. See, the idea of acceptance sort of makes sense in a logical way, in that pushing oneself to change their emotions is fruitless, as emotions don’t change by the power of will alone. On the other hand, emotions can change if we accept how we feel in the present moment and in doing so, no longer push against the emotion and give it more energy.

In short,

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.”
Eckhart Tolle

The following Buddhist anagram R.A.I.N. (so catchy!) should help you the next time the thought of starting your homework brings up negative emotions:

  • Recognize: Take a look within and ask yourself what you are feeling. You might have to look at it for a few seconds before the answer comes to you. Then tell yourself what you are feeling. Be complete. Say something along the lines of, “I feel stressed because it seems like this assignment will take a long time and nervous because I’m not sure if I have enough time to complete it” or “I feel _______ because ________.” Often you will have a suddenly good feeling and realization of the reason you are so nervous to start and will feel an intense urge to begin. Often recognition can make the next three steps unnecessary.
  • Accept: This is the most important part. Tell yourself, “It’s okay that you feel this way.” It doesn’t really matter what you say as long as you take a few seconds to truly allow yourself to do nothing. Most often you subconsciously feel guilty for doing nothing when you know you should be working. It is that split between wanting to do something and instead doing something else that causes stress and anxiety. This is worthy of an entirely new post actually. For example, when you are cramming for a final and actually studying/working, there is a split between the amount of work you are doing & feel you can do before the test starts and the amount you think you should have done by the time the test starts (desired work time >actual work time).
  • Investigate: Psychoanalyze yourself for a brief second and find out why you feel this emotion. In other words, expand on the “because” part of “Recognize.” Does this happen all the time? Are you the most productive when you are stressed and see a deadline approaching? Do you subconsciously know that and that’s why you often see yourself working at the last minute? These are only examples, as you should ask yourself the questions that you feel are important. If this step feels productive and leads you somewhere interesting, grab a journal or create an evernote.com account and write down your thoughts. If you do, one day you could be like me, a full time college student slash blogger!
  • Non-resistance: Take in a deep breath for three seconds. Let it out in the same amount of time. Tell yourself that you are going to let your body and mind feel whatever it would like for now. This is the part when any leftover stress and anxiety slowly fades away. Acceptance and non-resistance are a one-two punch to completely accept and let go of the negative emotions holding you back from starting your work.

I’m Too Tired

23 Oct

Tiredness has to be one of the most debilitating feelings that exists and the most formidable foe to productivity. You know that physics principle that states every action has an equal and opposite reaction? Well here comes your body’s retribution for making you get up an use energy earlier than it would have preferred. Tiredness affects multiple steps in regards to productivity and self-discipline.

  • Step 1: getting your body and mind to move to where they need to be requires more willpower. It’s as if you are trying to squat 250 pounds instead of 200 when your max is 250. In reality your body is capable of lifting that weight, but it is on the edge of failure and it will likely take far more mental energy to get yourself to simply walk over to that weight and throw it over your shoulder, or in productivity terms, take that first important step to at the very least give a task your best attempt. You know you have lifted it before, but are considering whether or not it’s worth the pain and suffering required again and the potential of failure.
  • Step 2: doing the actual lifting. You squat down with that heavy bar held tight to your shoulder. The same muscles are there, but they feel weaker, more flimsy and unwilling than before. Maybe you make it back up or maybe you don’t. The point is that it was hard.

Solutions – the obvious:

  • Caffeine: The $5 or less savior of America and particularly my hometown (Seattle). Liquid motivation and drive. I say motivation and not intelligence because the quality of my work is usually the same between when I’m tired and uncaffeinated and tired and caffeinated, but it just takes less time to complete. Caffeine is only a stimulant after all.
  • A nap: The solution for those with the time. A ten to twenty minute nap can mean the difference between groggy, painful work and efficiency.  It’s healthier and less addictive as well.
  • Stress (maybe not so obvious): That feeling of urgency when you see a deadline quickly approaching and your resulting productivity. If you are reading this blog, you are most likely an unproductive person and thus are accustomed to getting things done at the last minute, whether you have a month to complete them or an hour. Another term for this increased productivity with an approaching deadline is, “Parkinson’s Law.”

Caffeine is addicting, dehydrating, and fucks with how you feel while you’re not on it. Stress is uncomfortable, annoying, and may lead to serious diseases, including depression, cardiovascular disease, and even HIV/AIDS. Naps are pretty chill, but if you need one you probably should just get more sleep, unless you want to go polyphasic on my ass and combine naps with a shorter night of sleep (or only take naps!) and sleep a total of 6, 4, or 2 hours for each 24 hour period. Seriously, don’t click those links though or you might stop reading my blog (worse for your health than all three of the above combined).

So what’s the healthy, long-lasting solution? You think I know?!

It turns out the solution is to use the same strategies that you should be using when you aren’t tired. The goal is that these strategies will have been so imbedded into your habits that being tired hardly affects your ability to approach and accomplish a task. Habits absolutely transfer over to when you’re tired, although of course it depends upon how good a job you have done of sticking to them.

A more in depth answer is sure to come soon.

See you again tomorrow at 9:00! See how I’m helping you all make me accountable? Kick my ass if I’m not back here!

I’ll Get To It

22 Oct

“Oh, that’s something I need to write down.”

“Oh, I should absolutely do that later.”

“Ingenuis! Everything is falling in to place…I’ll write that down later and discuss it further.”

“Oh shit, that assignment/meeting is important. I can’t forget about it or I’m royally screwed.”

 

It happens to the best of us on multiple levels. There’s the kind of procrastination that we rationalize with our own thoughts, when we  are going about our daily business, for example when we are walking or driving to class or work and something we told ourselves to remember before pops up. “I can’t forget to meet with Mr. Brandherst,” “I made a promise to that corner of the room that I would clean it,” “My desk is a fucking mess.”

Most often these are emotional reminders, and not logical or technical ones. What I mean by this is that we tell ourselves that we are going to do something because we are guilty or afraid of what happens if we don’t do them. Many times I’ve honestly made myself think, “you CAN’T let yourself forget this.” and I’ll associate MORE guilt with a specific task than I normally would. And doing that makes it so that I am reminded more often. After I’ve activated that guilt switch, the reminders are almost subconscious and are set off by seemingly random things.

So what’s the real problem?

The problem comes when we remind ourselves of important actions, but are not motivated enough to do them or at the very least schedule them. For me personally, this inability to take action or schedule them stems from the fact that so many times in my life I have tried to complete a task or action and was unable to and thus part of me felt like a failure. The other part is that not as many times, but a significant amount, I have scheduled a day or a few hours and failed hard at keeping myself to it. Whenever I make these schedules I have high expectations for myself, yet I almost always fall very short and feel like a failure. There is a big gap between my desire and expected outcome and what actually happens. The reality is that I don’t have enough self-discipline yet to get myself to stick to an entire day’s schedule. It feels good and is exciting to envision a task, day, or future in an idealistic way, but the action is almost far more difficult to stick to. This applies to everything from study habits to jobs to dating to working out.

Whenever I have imagined myself doing what I actually want to do in the real world, such as asking a girl out or catching up on reading assignments, there is invariably a positive feeling that comes along with it. And most often, I don’t do these things or at the least am not very proactive about them. The same happens with the earlier mentioned tasks that I don’t want to do. The only difference is in the way I imagine them. With those things that I want to do, I imagine them positively and often extend this uplifting imagination longer than I should, just to live out the fantasy. With those things I don’t want to do, I usually try and imbed them into my brain’s reminder system and then stop thinking about them as quickly as possible. And I therefore spend a significant part of the day thinking about things that I want to do and less time thinking about things I don’t want to do, but have to.

Excuses:

When I procrastinate something I don’t want to do, there’s a pretty simple reason why. I believe that I won’t enjoy the action required to complete the task on my mind and thus don’t want to do it.

When I procrastinate something I do want to do, the excuses become far more complicated. So let’s rank em)

1. I’m too scared or unmotivated to do that. Let it go.

2. You don’t actually want to do that (you don’t actually want to ask that girl out, etc.)

3. You don’t have any good methods/ideas to take care of that (especially in regards to girls).

*Want to do = A task that when completed will potentially have immediate, positive effects on my life. This almost never includes homework, job searching, etc.

There’s no easy solution. Sorry, so tired, this has been a messy and unfilfilled post, but I’m glad I did it! See you tomorrow night at 9:00!

Momentum

6 Oct

Shout of to Mark Manson at PostMasculine.com for the inspiration me to start a blog, write often, and decide on an overall theme!

Here’s my first post, which will absolutely be a long, unorganized rant. My writing feels a little rusty and it is going to take a few days for me to get my mind and fingers in sync and to be succinct. So readers, if you’re out there, cut me some slack for now.

I have ADD. And ADD and I have a bittersweet relationship. It allows me to free associate and connect ideas in ways that most people do not or do with much greater difficulty. Yet, it is much more difficult for me to focus, of course. This has created procrastination that has been grueling to adjust to and I still have a long way to go, even while on Straterra. The biggest issue isn’t necessarily that I get unfocused, as that is easy for most people to do.  The issue is that when I lose focus initially, it is almost impossible to pull myself back to what I was doing. If I am typing an essay and my mind wanders to something I wanted to check up on Facebook and I check Facebook, the following process commences: I login, the unlimited stimulation and distraction of status updates, pictures, articles, groups, throws my mind far off course and I quickly forget about what I wanted to find out in the first place and end up lost in the virtual friend party. This happens just about 100% of the time I go to Facebook, “for a specific purpose,” as I tell myself.

I mention Facebook not just because it is my homework distraction of choice, but it has become the favorite of nearly every college student. Whenever I walk through the library of, “students hard at work: please be quiet,” around half are scrolling through Facebook. It makes me wonder how many of these students who live in the library would be so socially awkward if they actually used their study time efficiently. ANYWAYS. Only when I realize that I am on Facebook, do I remember that I was writing an essay and simultaneously realize both that I came to Facebook for a specific purpose and that I forgot what that purpose was. Even now, I am realizing that this article has steered off my original course and that we need to get back to my original goal. So by this lap in the procrastination circuit, I return to my essay. You know how motivated you feel when you can really feel yourself moving easily through your writing, because somehow your thoughts are coming easily and seem to move in rhythm with your keys on the computer? So that’s gone. All you are left with is the unfinished product and the last few sentences you wrote to stimulate your memory and hopefully get some feeling back into your mind and fingers. But it doesn’t work. You are in a different world. You know how when you were a kid and paused a video game in the middle of an action sequence, when you came back and resumed, you possibly felt a little off, like you needed to recalibrate your video game senses? It’s like that, but about a thousand times harder. The conceptual piece of the mind is incredibly complex and combining a specific feeling with a specific pattern of thought that you now only know in distant, obscure memory is impossible. Distractions like Facebook kill both your emotional motivation and demolish your pattern of thinking. Typing while thinking is in it’s nature hard something that must flow. It can’t be stopped and started. It required a connection to past thoughts. So what happens when I try and build it back up again?

It’s slow. The words and ideas feel misplaced. Usually I start typing something related to the last sentence, but far from meaningful. Then once I find an idea in these new, deadbeat sentences, I go with it and the build-up continues.

The solution?

It’s not as simple as don’t stop writing. It can’t be, as anyone who has written an entire essay the night before it is due (I’m talking to YOU, everyone) knows. Even when our thoughts and ideas are flowing well, our mind eventually gets tired and the loudness of what we are supposed to write fades until we can’t even hear a whisper. Like it is right now. I am still focused and motivated, but my mind is slowing down and whispering because I have been writing for a good while now and my writing muscles are entirely pathetic right now.

The solution:

A True Break

Don’t get on Facebook. Don’t pretend that you have to check just this one thing. Because you of all people know that this is more important and this “necessity” will throw you off track. So allow yourself, what I’ll call for now, “A True Break.” After all, while Facebook is in a way relaxing because of how easy it is, it doesn’t allow the mind a real break and throws it into a different pattern of thinking, as I’ve mentioned too many times already. Instead, get up. Take at least three minutes (but not more than ten to allow yourself to return to your pattern of thinking) to walk around and swing your arms back and forth like Michael Phelps. You will find it shockingly easy for your mind to think about nothing compared to your normal thought patterns when you move from class to Panda Express. People will pass by without a second glance. This is all because your mind is TIRED. It’s like any other workout you would do. And This period of nothingness in the mind is incredibly important. First of all, it gives your mind the necessary break to keep writing. Second, it keeps you from losing yourself in alternative distractions such as Facebook that resets your mind to thinking about something completely different. This method allows you to hit the pause button in your brain and start back about where you left off. It will feel a little uncomfortable getting yourself back on course, but it will be ten times easier than if you spent those minutes on Facebook, which wasn’t a true break anyways.

How to Tell When Your Brain is Tired

This part isn’t obvious for everyone and certainly isn’t for me. Looking back, there are two ways:

  • You are hitting alt+tab (changing windows to the internet browser or iTunes) or find yourself drifting off to other issues, such as your phone without fully conscious control.
  • Although you can feel that you have a good writing groove, you still can’t seem to form the words in your head or type them onto the screen.

If you are in the groove of writing, you should always be able to form words in your head, even if they don’t sound very good. So whenever you start switching windows or getting distracted, get up and walk around for whatever feels like at least three minutes, allowing yourself to continue walking for a couple more if you need to. Decide whether or not you should actually time your break, since it’s possible it could only stress you out if you are frequently checking out your watch or phone.

And finally, allow yourself to decide how much you actually needed the break based upon how blank your mind is when you are walking around. Because of my ADD I think that I am particularly prone to running thoughts 24/7, yet when I take these breaks at the right time, it’s quieter than a Buddhist Temple up there.

Overall, just avoid Facebook as relief. I have honestly found that when I want to take a break and instead of going on Facebook, I just get up and take a break, I am still able to return to the pattern of thinking of left off at in my writing. It must be the high stimulation of Facebook that gets the mind so lost. Maybe because it is such an easy, natural shift from writing to Facebook that your brain can’t actually tell them apart and thinks that the pattern we get into on Facebook is our new pattern and thus it wouldn’t make sense to go back to what we were thinking before. Anyways, you get the point. Healthy, true breaks are the answer. Be aware. Don’t let yourself get lost. Give yourself barriers to Facebook entry. StayFocusd is a good one. Then you have the chance to consciously say to yourself, “I don’t want to do this. I have a more important task at hand” or you take the break. It’s you’re call.