TimeHop Motivation

So, in case I haven't mentioned it a time or two (I have!), I haven't exactly been the picture of productivity for the past few months. It's the strangest thing, but I thought that once I wasn't working and had a lot of free time that I would be able to get all kinds of stuff done- starting my book, writing a new play, blogging regularly, etc.

Clearly, that hasn't happened. One excuse explanation, at least when it comes to blogging, is that I feel like I don't have a whole lot of interesting news to share given that I don't do much of anything during the week. Now, could that be remedied in one way or another? Oh, sure. But that would require actual thought and effort on my part, and who's got the time? (I do. I have all the time in the world.) So what's my problem?

In my defense, I guess I should mention that it's only been in the last couple weeks that I haven't felt exhausted and queasy the vast majority of the time due to this pregnancy, so it's not like I would or could have been as productive as possible during the first trimester. (My threshold for discomfort is quite low; can you tell? In fact, my doctor- who's only met me twice- told me this week that given my pain tolerance she would highly recommend an epidural. Good call, doc.) Anyway, it's a weird thing, but apparently (at least for me) it's easier to get things done, even things that don't have to get done like blogging, when I'm already busy and productive in other areas (like teaching.)

Back in the fall, I was really upset about not teaching- borderline depressed- but I survived those first few months and then the hustle and bustle of the holidays, traveling for deputation, finding out I was pregnant, packing, moving, and getting adjusted here in Texas all served as a distraction from that. Now that we've been here for close to two months and have gotten settled, those feelings of dissatisfaction and, yes, sadness at times threaten to overwhelm me all over again. I've been out of the classroom for almost a whole school year now and I can say definitively that being a teacher, in some form, is who I am. I need to teach, somehow. (I'm teaching Sunday school starting next month and I'm thrilled about it!) Beyond that, I need to do something productive that gets me out of the house and around people at least occasionally.

A baby appointment day... dressed in real clothes, hair curled... productivity!

Before we moved,  I had every intention of tutoring locally through a program I've used in the past. But then I was pregnant and sick and often quite miserable, so I ignored any inquiries that came to my email. Since I've been feeling better, I've thought a lot about actually jumping in and starting, but so far... nothing.

Why do I- we- do this? We know something is a good idea- responding to a job inquiry, for me, or maybe it's working out or cooking more or scheduling lunch with a friend. We know something would be enjoyable or beneficial (or even both) but we delay starting it... usually for no good reason.

I'm reading Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (fantastic- highly recommend!) and the whole idea is about habits but really any tasks we need to perform but resist for whatever reason. She says that often just starting a habit or task is actually much more difficult than maintaining it. That's so true! Tutoring would not be hard for me... but why can't I sit down and order the books I need from Amazon? I'm loving having lots of time to read right now, but it's so much more fun to discuss books with other people who are interested in them (and not poor Jonathan)... so why don't I find a local book club?

A good example of this is making plans with friends. I have a friend in Georgia, Ellen, who is adorable, witty, and a truly gifted writer (just one of her many talents.) For the past several years, I've wanted to get together with her when I'm in town, but I've never taken the time to really make concrete plans. Finally, with a cross-country move looming in the near future, I asked her to have lunch with me when I was home in February and that hour and a half was as delightful as I could have imagined. I could have had a great little meet-up several times over the past five years of visiting home, but never did. I'm thrilled we finally made it happen but it made me wonder... why haven't I done this before?

Gretchen also reminds us that the best time to start something- a project, a routine, a task- is right now... not January 1 or next Monday or after I lose 10 pounds. (Ha! That would be at least several months away for me. =) So TODAY I'm ordering the books I need for tutoring. Will that schedule all my students and get the whole process finished? Of course not, but it's a start, which is sometimes most half (or more!) of the battle.

And as for writing... TODAY I've drafted a few other blog posts because if writing only gets harder the longer I don't do it, well, who can I blame but myself? I don't have to write a whole play today, but I can brainstorm some ideas and make a list of potential plots, can't I?

What really got all this started for me, other than Gretchen's book, was looking at TimeHop this morning. In case you ignore a lot of Facebook posts and aren't aware of what it is, TimeHop is an app that allows you to see what you posted on this exact date one, two, however many years ago. (I guess as many years as you've used your social media account.) I never share it (mostly because some people share theirs nearly every day, not seeming to realize that their TimeHop is just going to be become one big loop of TimeHops!) but I like looking at mine. I also rarely/never read old blog posts but since one was in my TimeHop this morning I clicked on it. It was all about the things I needed to do at school that week- bulletin boards, grading, lesson plans, etc.

Part of me felt a tiny bit of relief that I don't have to do all that anymore, part of me felt like crying because I genuinely miss that part of my life, and the rest of me was disgusted with myself because I was blogging- fairly regularly- in the middle of all that busyness and chaos. I literally don't have any demands on my time during the day, yet I'm not doing the things I know I want to do and should do. That, my friends, is just dumb. So, I'm calling myself out. I don't have to self-publish a novel in the next month, but I do have to take steps to be more productive. For the first time in my life, I can't claim to have too many things going on.

One other thing that really made sense in Better Than Before was the four Tendencies that describe how we meet (or don't meet) expectations. I am clearly an Obliger, meaning I easily meet outer expectations- lesson plans, grading, play practice, Sunday school preparation, anything where others are relying on me or requiring my presence- but resist inner expectations- order the books, write a blog post, brainstorm script ideas. No one but me is affected by whether or not I do these tasks, so I usually fail to do them. (This also may be why I have never stuck to a soda fast or workout routine. Hmm.) The best solution for an Obliger is to create lots of accountability for those inner expectations, so that's part of the purpose of this post. Hold me accountable, people! Demand new blog posts! It's good for me! =) (Also if you're interested in knowing which type you are, take this quiz.)

Well, there you have it. I wouldn't say to expect a masterpiece play out of me anytime soon, but at least you can know I'm not just lounging by the pool with a stack of books. (I'm still totally going to be doing that, but in addition to working on real stuff, too. No worries... the pool and I are very good friends and I couldn't possibly desert it now.)


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