I have eaten
that were on
I had meant
to save for salads
they were omnomnom
If you’ve ever been go-karting, it’s very likely that you’ve worn a balaclava at some point. Most kart tracks have helmets, fireproof racing suits, and head and neck restraint devices for karters to wear. Balaclavas (or head socks, as they’re sometimes called) are also usually available, because who wants to get someone else’s sweat and hair gel all over when they slide into that borrowed helmet?
If you’re a biker who wears a helmet, a good balaclava is also indispensable. Yes, I know — that lid is your own, and you don’t share it with anyone (or at most, you let your girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever borrow it on occasion). It’s still a good idea.
Why? Five simple reasons:
A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, I used to work at a place where standard policy was to save our data in multiple places. As far as our policy was concerned, those newfangled computers couldn’t be trusted. So not only did we save things in a couple of different internal databases, but we also saved paper copies of everything — augmented sometimes by all that data being input into spreadsheets on our computers that we shared with one another.
(This was pre-Google Drive and pre-cloud, in general; I’m talking shared Excel workbooks.)
While this seemed slightly excessive, upon reflection, I can say that we never lost an order (that I know of) while I worked there. I worked there for several years, too.
At the time, I was writing loads of papers for college. I’d recently gotten my first laptop — the first computer I’d ever owned. You’d better believe I backed everything up on multiple disks, so I had multiple copies. Again, slight overkill — but I never lost anything important that way.
A friend shared Dumped! by Google with me, and it made me glad that I’ve continued this practice, even in today’s cloud age. Have you ever thought about what would happen if you couldn’t use any of the Google products you currently use? You should. This isn’t intended to incite panic about Google, or to imply that their products are unreliable. However, with our increasing dependence on them to smooth out the roughnesses of everyday life, having a backup plan in place seems like the pragmatic thing to do. Until now, I have only had the foresight to back up drafts and finished documents. That’s a problem.
We’ve all been behind them. You know who I mean. Those jerks who insist on going 10 under the speed limit. Then traffic starts zooming past you in the other lane, so you can’t even pull out from behind the asshole and pass.
That isn’t what I’m going to talk about today. It’s an annoying situation, for sure. But it’s not inherently unsafe — unless it leads to frustrated people behind said asshole suddenly pulling out into traffic with great bursts of speed while not checking for cross-traffic.
What I’m going to talk about today are driving behaviors that not only make you an asshole, but that are also inherently unsafe for those around you. (Note that shouldn’t have to be said, but that I’ll say anyway: if you aren’t doing any of these, then I’M NOT AIMING THIS AT YOU. If you are, and you get offended, GOOD. Rethink what it is you’re doing, stop doing it, and voila — this is no longer aimed at you. EVERYONE FUCKING WINS.)
Are you easily distracted?
I can be, but it depends on what I’m doing. I can also have laser-like focus on things, putting blinders on until I’ve reached my goal.
More importantly, it depends on whether I really want to get something accomplished.
If I do, I don’t let anything stand in my way. I typically get like this when I’m on a tight deadline. The blinders go on, I either shut all forms of music/tv/other media out or turn something on to provide good background noise, and I chew on it like a hungry dog until I’m done.
Then I collapse in a heap, pleased with what I’ve accomplished, and move onto the next thing. Ask me about something a week or two later, and I may remember disturbingly specific details about it – or I may not, because my brain may actively be engaged in the next mode for the next thing on which I’m working. Like I said, laser-like focus. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
That’s when I have external deadlines. But when I’m writing for myself, it’s more difficult. Or it was until I realized my problem: I wasn’t setting deadlines for myself.
Could it really be that simple? Yes, yes it could.
I love David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. Put simply, I’m a lover of lists. But I don’t love when my lists get out of control, as frequently used to happen until I started using an app on my old Palm Pre that utilized this system. When I moved to Android, I found DGT GTD & To-do List [Alpha], which does the same thing.
Basically, this system takes one major Goal and allows you to assign it all the sub-goals you need to accomplish in order to achieve your main goal. You can also put those steps in order, so you have everything written down to lead you along the path you need to take to achieve your main goal. My biggest problem was letting myself get waylaid by worrying about all the little details that I didn’t have written down. Or else letting myself get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things I needed to accomplish to meet the goal I wanted to achieve.
That’s probably why I feel stronger writing shorter pieces, but less so writing longer ones.
By writing down all my goals and sub-goals, by assigning them contexts (work, home, errands, etc.), and by giving myself a small sense of accomplishment every time I ticked off another item on the list, I started getting larger goals accomplished.
This, in turn, snowballed and made me feel better about myself and my ability to get things done. All it took was a minor change, slotting my desired outcome into existing habits I already had. It may be different for you, because you’re not me. The key is to find that thing that accomplishes the same thing for you.
Also, stop running away from your brain. We all do it sometimes. It’s easy to allow yourself to become distracted when an onerous task presents itself. We all learned to do that as kids, when there was some chore we didn’t want to do (like cleaning the catbox). Recognize that you’re doing it, and then stop yourself. Giving in is how you hold yourself back from accomplishing just about anything.
Most goals worth accomplishing take many steps and loads of hard work. Some can take years, or even a lifetime. But you can’t get anything at all done if all you’re going to do is sit around and play Angry Birds or Triple Town or surf the Intarwebs or marathon things on Netflix. It’s good to take breaks once in a while, but you need to first take stock of what makes you most effective at your work, and then arrange your schedule around that.
Don’t let the breaks break your train of thought. If you think best when you lock yourself into a single mode and don’t let go until you’re done, arrange your schedule so you can do just that.
If you need regular breaks to keep yourself sane, do that – but give yourself a time limit for those breaks. Don’t give into the temptation to stretch them out. You only cheat yourself if you do.
At the same time, your best defense is to know yourself and how your brain works. That way, you can devise the cleverest ways to work your brain for all it’s worth.
I just took a break from a bigger project of mine to write this blog entry, because it was something I needed to say (both to myself and in general). Now that I’ve written it, I can go on with my larger project. It’s important to learn to recognize when a niggling side-thought isn’t likely to leave your brain alone until you give in to it, then get it out of the way and move on.