So, you have a beautiful List of Things To Do. Or just one big Thing To Do. Everything is organised; the only thing left is to actually do the things.
So you make a cup of tea, feed the rabbit, get distracted and end up doing something which never even made it onto the list. It’s not just me, is it?
The conventional advice often seems to be to jump in and do the hard thing first – get the worst of it over with. (Rather like eating your beetroot first and saving the yummy buttery mashed potato until last. Or maybe that’s just me too?) Then everything else will seem easy.
Except it doesn’t always work. When the boy and I were discussing homework yesterday (before it escalated into a shouting match – that’s a story for another day), we agreed that we both work with a different strategy, one that works better for us.
It’s this: do the easiest thing first, or the thing that you most like the look of, or the thing that will take the shortest time. That way, you’re on a roll and are more likely to continue onto the next thing and the next, rather than heaving a huge sigh of relief after the hard thing and going and making yet another cup of tea in celebration. (You may eventually end up with a pile of ‘nasty’ things to do once you’ve picked off the best ones. But somehow they look less daunting when you’ve already proved to yourself that you can get things done.
I reckon it often doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something. Action begets action, and eventually you’ll get to the thing you’ve been putting off – and I bet it won’t seem half as bad by then.
Round and round go the thoughts on their little train track. Round and round. Maybe it’s not a train track; maybe it’s the track a caged animal makes pacing around the inside of the fence. Whatever it is, it goes round and round and round. Have you ever wondered how many times you have the same thought, make the same plan, rehearse the same conversation in your head with someone so many times you feel as if you’ve actually talked to them in person?
Tiring. All this thinking is so tiring.
Perhaps those of us who work from home are even more prone to overthinking than the rest of the human race. After all, most of the time the only person we’ve got to talk to is ourselves!
All the planning in the world gets us nowhere unless we actually do something. I’m naturally a do-er. I don’t like long-winded plans or detailed analyses. I’d rather get going, make my own mistakes, learn from them and move on. But sometimes I get stuck in a thinking loop, going round and round like a dog chasing its tail. And I’ve learnt that the only way out of it is to do something. What you choose to do is almost irrelevant. It will become clear pretty quickly if the thing you’ve decided to do isn’t going to get you anywhere. But the very fact that you’ve taken action – like I did with a phone call last week – seems to work a form of magic in breaking the endless thinking loop. Once you’ve done one thing, even if it turns out that you should have done something else, it’s easier to go on and do another thing, and another thing, and suddenly you’re making forward progress again instead of going round in ever-decreasing circles.
Do something. You can think about it later.