Every new year, I used to make a resolution. And every year that resolution would be history by mid-January. As every new year started with my very best intentions and a firm resolve, my resolutions never seemed to take hold for very long. Despite my resolutions, I would still be on that same treadmill–or as some eloquent pessimist puts it “New day; same s___!”
It’s not that I liked being on that treadmill, but every day I’d be faced with more and more of the same workload on my plate. I’d spend hours and hours after hours or on weekends to get the pile down to a manageable level, only to find that the pile grew back. But I did find a solution.
Time. Time was the answer. I just needed some time.
While working on a graduate degree, I had a family and a full time job. I found that I was reading the assignments, or writing those papers, the day before they were due. I was getting them done. I was keeping up. But I noticed that I was making some dumb mistakes in my papers. Yes, I was proofreading them, but I was missing simple grammar mistakes. That’s when I discovered that if you proofread your own work, your brain actually reads what you intended to write rather than what’s on the paper. It’s like your spell checker in your text messages when it changes your typed word to something totally different just to be helpful. The solution was easy: give myself some more time. Write the paper a day earlier, so that I could proofread it 24 hours later and then hand it in.
I also found that if I read the assignment a few days earlier, I’d start to think about it at odd times. Objects and actions in my daily life would trigger a thought about what I had read. So without actually sitting at the desk and trying to pull ideas out of the air, I was finding that given some time, life just seemed to throw new ideas at me.
It’s like buying a new car. Once you decide on one, you start noticing that car every time you pass one on the street. They’ve always been there, but you didn’t notice them until you began to focus on the make and model. Reading the assignments a few days before they were due provided that time for focus.
So for me, the answer to move forward is not to make another list of “things to do”, but to take a 15-minute break and actually think about what I’m doing. I believe this strategy works for all sorts of projects as well as resolutions. If you write it down, you reinforce that idea in your brain. That plants the seed and let’s your brain focus on that idea. It will grow over the next few days and then you’ll be ready to act – to move forward.