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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Monday, January 10, 2022
7:27pm

My word eluded me today.

I woke up cranky-ish from a not very good night’s sleep, aching from all the repentant new year exercise, fully aware that it was Monday, which, in spite of it coming exactly the same percentage of the time as Friday, always seems as if it takes up two-thirds of my life.

I thought about what I wanted my word to be.

A few floated to the surface like little thought-corks bobbing in my brain. Resentment. Anger. Irritation. Annoyance.

I didn’t feel like being any of those, let alone reflecting on them, let alone writing something whining and bitchy about them for anyone to read.

So I thought about what I wanted out of the day.

That was easy.

Peace and quiet. To be left alone. I didn’t want anyone to ask me anything or want something or expect anything or need something.

But Monday laughs in the face of silly fantasies like that, so I settled for hoping to get through the day in the most mentally calm way possible, blocking out the unnecessary and being quiet in my brain.

And just as I thought that, the 9:00 church bells clanged.

I finished up my tea and prepared to get on the treadmill – literally and figuratively – and let it all begin.

The 92 emails and 57 texts and 43 pings and what do you think of this and can you do that.

And maybe in between all that I’d get my actual tasks done.

Each morning (or sometimes the night before) I write down what I want to accomplish that day. Mostly work, but also personal in case there is any time left.

I set three objectives today. Two of them were things that I have set and ignored every day for the entire last week. If I just DID them it would take me a fraction of the time it takes me to keep rewriting them on the next day’s list.

I am often left wondering what on earth I actually did that required a day full of hours. Unless I entered a time warp and didn’t know it, then I must have done something.

I just don’t know what that something is.

Maybe I do nothing.

Maybe I stare at the walls a lot and truthfully get nothing done.

Or maybe I do.

All I know is I write down the things I’m going to do and then don’t cross them off the list.

I didn’t want to reflect on frustration, either.

So I decided to conduct a mini-project within the word project. I decided that I would spend the day writing down what I actually did, and then evaluate that list at the end of the day to see whether I had, in fact, invented time warps. Because something has to explain the extreme dearth of crossed off list items, right?

I decided the word would be “evaluate”.

Not sexy. Not sexy at all.

But there was no word for “keeping a list of everything you’ve done so that you can see what the heck actually happened today”.

So I would do it. I would track my accomplishments, and evaluate my progress to see where I went wrong, where I went right, and whether I could learn anything from it.

This is what I found.

7-9am
Meditated. Exercised.

Put away all the kitchen things left from last night, made a fresh container of iced tea, texted with client 10 times, emptied email inbox, ate breakfast.

Turned on the treadmill and thought about the Pez that I’m not going to eat (Really. Did I think putting that on my desk was going to be a good idea? How many calories are in Pez, anyway?)

What I learned: Life things take time.

9-11am
Hid the Pez behind my water bottle.

Answered more emails from a client about a pressing project.

Started work on task number one. Notice I say “started” because I did not, in fact, finish it. First I had to do it wrong because I totally misinterpreted the requirements that IIIII wrote down.

Fielded a dozen more questions from another client whose project is a “get it done yesterday” kind of thing.

What I learned: If I had done task number one a week ago when I planned to, I probably wouldn’t have misinterpreted my own notes and spent twice the amount of time trying to recall what I should have been doing. Also, there only seem to be two timeframes for doing anything: now, and yesterday.

11-1pm
Finished task number two AND three. Was so shocked I had to text two different people to tell them about it. 

Sent my recipe for maple black walnut bitters to a friend because things like that shouldn’t be put off.

Ate lunch. Don’t laugh: I made chicken salad.

What I learned: When you swear on all the Pez on your desk that you won’t break for lunch until you finish what you’re working on, you can accomplish more than you think you can. Don’t believe the people who tell you that you need “intrinsic motivation.” Rewarding yourself with lunch with a side of animal crackers is more than sufficient.

1-2pm
Went through a laundry list of bugs and updates for “get it done yesterday” project.

Tested, made notes, tested, made more notes.

Stared blankly at what I’d done for task number one so far.

What I learned: Things that don’t make it to the list sometimes have to be done before the list. Not only is that disruptive but it requires a level of mental task switching that is hard to manage. Sometimes you need to actually focus on a thing, not just squeeze it in between the interruptions.

2-3pm
Wrote exactly 153 words in pursuit of accomplishing task number one. The goal is 500.

Did more testing and note taking.

Emailed 427 times with client who has pressing project.

What I learned: I’m busy. Writing down what I’ve done is just making me busier.

4-5pm
Testing and note taking ad nauseam.

Wrote exactly 356 words in pursuit of accomplishing task number one.

Cleaned out the ice maker because it started making a disturbing grinding and whining noise.

Ate four Pez.

What I learned: A disadvantage of working from home is that you sometimes end up cleaning out the ice maker instead of working. Another disadvantage of working from home is that it’s never really 5pm. It’s just another hour that you can get something done.

5-6pm
Finished task number one! 563 words, baby.

Answered more emails, inbox zero.

Wrote various notes for “get it done yesterday” project.

What I learned: Crossing things off the list is one of the best feelings in the world.

My mini project is over.

Today’s word was a total fail. I thought I might come up with something interesting to say about my schedule but in the end it told me nothing except I’m constantly being interrupted and things are constantly being piled on top of me.

Sometimes I get nothing done because of that. Sometimes I get nothing done because I can’t think straight. Sometimes I get nothing done because there are more things to do.

Correction.

I get EVERYTHING done. Just not in the order I set out to do them.

And then eventually those things become urgent enough that they get moved to the “get it done yesterday” list and I end up doing projects like this one to figure out how I got to that point.

I guess if I learned anything today, it’s that I need to plan small. It was ambitious to put THREE things on my list today, and practically a miracle that I got them all done. I really should be planning one thing and then praising god when I accomplish it. Or planning nothing, which actually works quite well, because when your goal is to do whatever shows up in front of you at any given moment, it’s all an accomplishment.

I guess, also, that I can take a break from berating myself for getting nothing done.

I get a lot of things done.

Yes, there are moments when I sit and stare and get nowhere, but there are a lot more moments that I’m working my butt off to make sure things get done right and delivered on time.

In fact, I’m pretty freaking good at my job.

So maybe this wasn’t a total waste of a side project. I needed a pick-me-up anyway, and people who tell me that I’m amazing and excellent at what I do are few and far between.

I might as well be one of them.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time I’ve experimented with writing down what I did as opposed to what I planned to do. I’ve had 20+ years in business to pursue all things productivity, to use all the apps, make all the lists, try all the methods. I have a pretty good system for keeping track of things. I just don’t always have the best system for appreciating what I’ve accomplished.

And I think, if I had to say one definitive thing about this whole exercise, it’s that whatever I think I learned will be obsolete by the next time. Because at various points in time I’ve planned big, and I’ve planned small. I’ve made lists and not made lists. I’ve found inner satisfaction and relied on external rewards. In the end it’s not about figuring out what works, but figuring out what works for now.

So this won’t be the last time I do this experiment, nor will it be the last time I feel like I’ve gotten nothing done.

And I feel sufficiently less cranky than I did this morning so I’ll count that as a win for words.

Now, as for Tuesday…

Photo: the Pez dispensers on my desk, bought for me by my brother, with my habit journal in the foreground and a box another brother bought for me for Christmas 2021, originally containing coconut scented bath items, now with my note cards.

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