Doing the Actual Thing

Ah, the mind. It is a powerful and untrustworthy chap.

Part of the unscrupulous story my mind tells is that I’m so busy. Emails, Teacher Training, writing, planning, networking, video project.

I’m so busy.

Last year I encouraged the Teacher Trainees to notice how much time they spent thinking about doing homework versus actually doing it. Many reported a shift in state of mind.

Chances are we fret, plan, prepare, undermine, imagine and exaggerate in the mind before ever really doing anything.

Of course, these activities may be necessary and useful in pre-processing. Designating thoughtful and purposeful time for the pre-activity is different from letting it massacre dinner conversation, steal sleep, and divide your attention from other worthy tasks. You can wring your hands and make yourself sick over everything you have on your to-do list without getting anything done. Or it might be as simple as that one thing that you remember only in the shower that feels like it’s taking up a lot of your time.

By the time we get to the Actual Thing, we may already be exhausted by it—dried out and dull.

When we spend so much time thinking about doing a project (or complaining that we’re not getting it done), it can feel like the project has taken much longer than the actual work of doing it takes.

This is my experiment this week. To designate time for planning, big idea making, and fretting (rather than denying the worry, I’ll give it a defined space), and acknowledge this time as separate from the actual doing of the thing.

Will report back findings.

***

What about you? Do you find that some of your busyness is really in your mind? Do you set time aside to plan, prep or worry? Do you every wear yourself out by thinking about a project too much?

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10 Responses to “Doing the Actual Thing”


  1. 1 Emma July 20, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    it’s not the project or the action of it so much, but worrying about how others will react to it. for example, taking the time to plan a special class: will students appreciate it, will they think im all woo-woo, etc. the time i spend worrying about other people’s reactions… that’s my kicker.

  2. 2 Kelly July 21, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Last weekend I was on a ROLL working on my own business stuff, and it made me wonder why I wasn’t always on a roll. I didn’t have to create a designated schedule to work on my stuff. I didn’t have to sit there psyching myself up to get started. It just happened. Then I realized: I was too distracted by my own curiosity. My curiosity kept me glued to my chair. So today I created a new entry in my book of me, written for my future fretful self:

    I am a curious wand.
    I’m really quite curious.
    I don’t need schedules because I just want to know what’s next.
    The wanting to know what’s next is what leads me to do the next thing, whatever it is.
    Whatever I am most curious about ends up getting done.
    As long as I’m curious, the things that need to be done today will be done.

    I don’t have to feel like doing this thing.
    I can just let myself be curious about what might happen next.

  3. 3 Amy --- Just A Titch July 21, 2010 at 5:09 am

    I think it’s amazing what a focus there is on being busy—it seems like a competition sometimes, who has more going on, who is involved in more stuff. I think I sometimes enjoy telling myself how busy I am, instead of just buckling down and doing it.

  4. 4 Geanette July 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Oh my! If only the fearful thoughts would stop… That’s what I’ve noticed with my stuff… it’s only fear! When I get to the point just before paralysis I say to myself… WHAT ARE YOU AFFRAID OF? In most cases it gets me moving into action.
    Thanks for sharing!
    XOXO

  5. 5 Elizabeth July 21, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I notice that I think about certain things enough that I build them up in my head. In my head, they feel like this massive thing that will take forever and a day. So of course, I don’t want to start. When I actually manage to finally do them, they take an hour. Or two. And then I wish I had just done them in the beginning instead of spending all that time thinking about doing them.

  6. 6 blogasana July 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    @emma – i hear you! worrying about other ppl’s reaction is the 1st cousin general worry!! how do you tame it?

    @kelly – i love you, curious kelly. what a great talking-to: loving, clear, direct. i love “whatever i’m curious about is the thing that gets done.” and shouldn’t it be that easy and natural!?

    @amy – oh my word, i totally agree. it’s like the badge of a successful, popular, sought-after person! sometimes i hear myself saying and then realize… i really don’t have that much on my plate!

    @geanette – mmm, like considering the worst case thing, which usually isn’t that bad? what are you afraid of — way to cut to the chase and get to it! kudos!

    @elizabeth – YES! i do that too. it’s never as bad real as it is in the head.

  7. 7 becky July 21, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    wow, that is a great insight, michelle! i am going to think about this this week.

  8. 9 Ashlee July 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Michelle! You are such a great writer! I can especially relate to this post today. It seems I spend much more time thinking about what I need to do, than doing what I need to do. My brain is on steroids most of the time, and I find myself struggling to prioritize because it’s just SO MUCH. As my husband so sweetly says, “It must be exhausting to be inside your head” ;)

    I think I need to follow suit and designate some time to planning, prioritizing, and freaking out next week.

    Miss you!

  9. 10 Kelley M August 8, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Soooooooooooo curious….how did it go? What did you find?

    Back to the post. I tend to do this too but I find that I’m more distracted than anything else. I TRY to get something done and find that I’m distracted by something else that MUST get done. Sometimes that new thing MUST be done before the other so that’s one issue. But sometimes I also find that I have so many things to do that if I try to do them all, literally at the same time, then they may all be done at the same time? Or perhaps I’m just so worried about getting things done that it feels better to START projects than NEVER get to them at all? This tends to lead to being freaked out by the number of things I NEVER finished. Oh dios mio.

    Yes, I’m in therapy and I have drugs. But if you found a solution that works please don’t hold back.


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