I’m writing this post after having a long, drawn-out argument.
Actually, I’m still having the argument, and I feel like I’m losing (funny how that works, right?). I’m losing an argument with myself. The glass-half-full folks out there will say, “hey, you’re also winning the argument!” while the glass-half-empty lot will be yelling, “haha, what a loser!”
The realists, like me, will be shouting, “um, shouldn’t you be working instead of arguing with yourself?”
Yes, I tell them. Yes I should.
I should be working.
I should be working on my manuscript for my upcoming thriller that I’m only 15,000 words into (out of 100,000 because I write real novels, Kevin Tumlinson!).
I should be working on my first draft of an awesome story that’s going to be the first part in a new series about singularity-type artificial intelligence.
I should be working on the second episode of The Lucid so… the two people (okay, really one since I was one of them) who’ve bought it can enjoy the next episode.
I should be working on the site updates that I know are just getting more and more out of date.
I should be working on blogging (this sort of counts, but it’s once-in-a-blue-moon now instead of regular).
I should be working on the nonfiction projects that Kevin and I are trying to launch.
I should be working on the nonfiction book project on which my task manager is diligently reminding my I’m behind.
I should be working…
I should be…
Get the point?
This is a letter to myself (I like to do these every now and then because they seem to resonate with people, and I love coming back to them after some time has passed) that I hope will live on this site forever, because it’s something I have needed to write for a long time.
Tonight, just before I started writing this, I had an argument with myself, in which “Me A” was arguing with “Me B.” “Me A” wanted to write a blog post, or check email, or work on any number of the things up there I was “supposed” to be working on. “Me B” didn’t. “Me B” was looking longingly at the book that just came in (Stand Out), waiting to be cracked open, and the video game (Grand Theft Auto V — what? Judge me or not, it’s for the story!), and the myriad other things that are fun but not necessarily productive.
And the “winner” of the argument?
Does that answer the question?
Nope. Even though I’m writing the blog post, and I’ll probably crack down on emails a little before calling it a day, doesn’t mean that “Me A” won the fight. The battle, maybe. But the war? No way.
Every day is a constant battle. Getting home from work and realizing that I’ve literally done nothing to get closer to my goals, dreams, and next book releases, and realizing that my “window of useful energy” is quickly closing only makes me more exhausted. And once I make dinner, hang out with the wife and new kid (seven weeks!), then figure out how much time I have until her next feeding I have to do (the kid, not the wife…), doesn’t help.
And I start in with the “I really shoulds.”
Before I know it, I just should all over myself and give in.
I give up. I reach the end of my rope; I find the “window” closed.
And then the shoulds really kick in. As I’m playing that video game, or reading that “for fun” book, I find “Me A” starting in on “Me B” with the “man, we really should do this or that,” or “you know, we really should have at least…”
It doesn’t end.
Seriously, you probably know what I’m talking about — hell, you probably experienced this exact feeling sometime today, and you clicked over to this humble little site because you want the answer.
So, what’s the answer?
What’s the “magic solution?”
I’ll give you ten: Here are 10 “proven” ways to push through the “should” and turn it into “did.”
You’ll find that these help almost as much as they’re obvious, useless, overstated, etc. Eh. Who cares. It is what it is:
- Work anyway. Just do something and push through the pain.
- Find something small. Do something sort of on your list, that’s helpful but not quite the actual thing.
- Start. The subject of many a good productivity book, “just start” can be a good mantra.
- Plan. Instead of doing work, plan to do more work. This can be equally rewarding and stressful, YMMV.
- Turn off distractions. Rid yourself of any distractions, and sit in the boredom for a minute until you want to work.
- Move. Physically move, like they made you do in PE class in elementary school. It gets the blood flowing…
- Move. Go somewhere else, try to get focused, and start working in a new environment.
- Trick yourself. Somehow make yourself believe you’re doing something as fun as one of those “Me B” things you want to do.
- Hold yourself accountable. Integrity’s a good thing — make your spouse or significant other withhold… *ahem*… or something valuable until you do your thing. (Also, YMMV. You have been warned).
- Use an app. Programs and websites tout their helpfulness in making you productive all the time. Figure out which one you like and start using it.
All of the above ideas, while useful in some way or another, aren’t really solving the problem.
The problem, as you already know, is that you and I both know it’s so easy not to… do that thing.
It’s so easy not to do the work.
It’s so easy not to write the damn book.
It’s so easy not to finish the stupid paper.
It’s so easy not to…
So the problem of “it’s so easy not to” needs to be solved by either making the other stuff harder or by making the hard stuff easier.
And that’s where the psychology of it all comes in. Once you realize that you’re arguing with yourself because you’re trying to take the easy way out, you’ll realize how ridiculous that sounds.
You’ll realize that you’re forgoing your future life because you want fleeting fun now. You want a “break,” because your life is oh-so-difficult. You want the easy work instead of the hard work, because even though the hard work pays a lot later, the easy work pays a little now.
You’ll realize how ridiculous it sounds to argue with yourself.
And you’ll want to kill the “it’s so much easier not to…” self. You’ll want to ban that “Me” from your brain, and never look back.
That still doesn’t make it easy.
None of this stuff ever is. None of this life ever really is. Anyone who says otherwise is messing with you, or they’re deluded. Life can certainly be enjoyable (and should be!), but it’s never easy (in general).
Knowing that you’re arguing with yourself every moment of every day doesn’t make yourself stop arguing with yourself. It doesn’t solve the problem, it just makes it a real problem.
But real problems can be solved, with hard work, integrity, dedication, and you know the rest.
You can beat the feeling of uselessness. You can destroy the “Me B” of your brain-world and tell it to shutthehellup.
It starts with knowing what you want, and why.
It begins when you decide to get serious about your future and own up to the arguing, bickering inner self that wants you to fail and succeed. It’s not really its fault, either. It wants you to be happy — now — and successful — later.
So you have to know — really know — which of those you want right now, and own it.
You have to decide that the “why” is bigger than the “easy.”
The should is bigger than the later.
And then doing it becomes easier.
A little bit, maybe-I-can-just-do-a-tiny-bit-now easier.
An infinitesimally-small amount of easier.
But before you know it, you’ve done that thing. You’ve written 1362 words.
Welcome to the hard side of “it’s so much easier not to…”