Friday, July 27, 2018

Start Digging

If you're anything like me, you probably have some amount of trouble keeping up with your tasks. I usually fluctuate between being "moderately on top of things" and "OMG I am so not on top of things" and "I'm completely overwhelmed and can't do anything."

For many years I have used OmniFocus to manage my tasks, which has been a great help. Just getting everything I have to do in one place is the first step in tackling each item one at a time. Still, when the list of "To Do" items gets too large, it can get really hard to dig myself out from under the weight of all the obligations. It's hard to pick even one item to take a crack at.

When I'm in this overwhelmed state, it helps to think of myself as being buried in sand. An individual grain of sand is trivial to move, but the weight of a million grains of sand can make it feel hopeless to even try.

Imagine you're buried all the way up to your neck. Both arms are almost completely submerged, and only your hands extend above the surface. Take it a step farther: maybe only your little finger breaks the surface. The work of moving sand with that one finger is overwhelming, the results seem not worth the effort, yet the only way to make any progress at all is to keep at it.

Progress will be slow at first, but as you free up space to move, a second finger starts to pitch in. Pretty soon a hand, and then a whole arm, which proceeds to free the other arm.

Making progress frees up energy to make more progress. Eventually, you're scooping up sand, two handfuls at a time, and your torso is free. Time to start working on those legs...

Where this metaphor breaks down for me is I don't know if I've ever really gotten my legs free, but I keep trying. Merely gaining back the use of my hands and arms is an incredible feeling, and so much better than being buried up to my head.

Start digging.