Saturday, May 9, 2015
INQUISITION 8: Fear, Time and Accomplishment
PLEASURE IN TIME MEANS NO DEADLINE
One of life's pleasures is to undertake a task which has no deadline. It's a pleasure to take as much time as needed to complete the task the right way.
This is a luxury in a world driven by greed - just about everything we do has a deadline; and, time is money.
REALITY OF CONNECTION OF MONEY TO TIME
When a plumber comes to repair a toilet, he charges a fixed cost for the trip plus a fee per hour for his time.
Analogously, years ago, a manager assigned me the task of writing a list of the ten accomplishments I would finish each week in decreasing order of importance. And, as an incentive, he promised me a raise when I accomplished the top 3 items on the list for four weeks in a row.
The lesson was clear: learn how to break down large accomplishments into their smaller, component parts so the larger objective will be reached via a series of smaller steps.
EFFECTIVE TIME MANAGEMENT AND CRITICAL PATH
Incorporating time into a critical list means choosing which steps are required to be finished before other steps can be taken.
If a particular task did not have other tasks depending on its completion, then it could be completed in a non-time sensitive manner, but all the tasks on which other tasks depended had to be completed expeditiously in order to finish the project on time.
With the critical path established, then the weekly list of ten accomplishments becomes a meaningful tool in finishing projects.
The denouement of the exercise was that while I learned about accomplishing things, the promised raise never happened since the manager who made the promise was fired before I logged in four weeks of successful accomplishments.
LIST MAKING MEANS EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT
The list making method of structuring work offers an additional benefit. By placing all the tasks one needs to accomplish on a piece of paper, one may then examine each item at focused leisure to see if everything that the list maker can do to accomplish each task has been done or not.
Once everything that can be done has been done, then one can and should go to some other activity which is not associated with any item on the to-do list.
This has the advantage of letting the mind rest from task focused projects and then relax. And, while the mind is relaxing from task activity, it will actually process thoughts about the tasks unconsciously. Thus, taking a break from an intense task may actually be a method of becoming more effective.
This approach has worked for the writer. In a time where many bills were due imminently and no funds were available to pay them, the process of writing a list of actions which could be taken to raise cash and/or postpone each bill allowed a focus on productive action instead of panic or other fear based responses. Once everything that could be done was done, then the writer found a diversion. That time off actually created a fresh approach to the problem.
FEAR CAN INTERFERE WITH ACCOMPLISHMENT
Our minds can play many tricks on us; and, one of those tricks is to create an overwhelming fear of failure. The fear can be so large that it can interfere with rational thinking and prevent us from finishing a task.
One way to manage that fear is simply to recognize that it exists and is normal. That recognition of fear as a normal emotion can reduce its power to interfere.
Secondly, fear derives its power from its lack of boundaries. It can become a strong negative emotion due to its seemingly endless nature.
But, boundaries for fear can be created by writing on paper a list of the worst things that could possibly happen as a result of failing to complete the task. This boundary limitation is one method of reducing the power of fear to prevent accomplishments. Concretizing the feared outcomes instead of leaving them as vague and overwhelming threats will reduce the power fear has to prevent action.
DEPRESSION AND FEAR
Sometimes fear and a long list of problems can create depression. And, that feeling can stop any rational actions.
But, feeling depressed occasionally is a normal behavior. A wise person realizes this and avoids any actions while depressed. The feeling will pass after some time and then rational actions can be done.
[Depression is a treatable disease; if one is depressed for more than five days, then one should see a physician.]
CREATING CLARITY OF THOUGHT MEANS FOCUSING ON A SINGLE TASK
In order to produce the best approach to any problem, the mind should be clear of any distraction so the full power of attention can be directed to the goal. The mind works best when focused on a single question and not distracted.
One of the consequences of writing a list of tasks to complete is that none of those items will distract the mind from its current task. The process of writing the list means that the each of those issues is safely deposited on the paper and the mind then is free to work on other issues.
From this it follows that the idea of multi tasking is not workable. In order for the mind to do good work it must be free from distraction and able to focus on a single issue. Experiments have shown that automobile drivers who send and receive text messages while behind the wheel drive as poorly as drunk drivers.
TIME OFF AND ACCOMPLISHMENT
Writers who have all the time they need to write a book or article have found that the intense focus required to write effectively cannot be sustained for long periods because it is too exhausting. Some writers can write continuously for four hours as long as those hours are between 7 am and 1 pm. These writers find that any work produced after completing the intense focus period is usually worthless. In those cases the writer will switch to other pursuits like gardening, shopping or napping. These writers produce just as much good work in half a day of focused intensity as do some other writers who force themselves to write beyond the time of focus.
SLEEP ON IT
One method of ensuring that the mind is functioning as well as possible is to harness the power of unconscious thought. The logical and conscious mind is only one tool. Another tool is the information processing which our minds do while we are not thinking about a problem.
Most people have noticed that problems seem less difficult in the morning after a night's sleep. Something happens during sleep which re-orders thoughts and questions.
This writer routinely postpones any important decision until the morning to take advantage of that process.
In addition, the writer has found this an effective method of addressing large and important questions.
This method consists of asking the unconscious mind a specific question and providing the mind a specific deadline before which to fashion an answer.
For example, I might pose the question this way: 'Should I accept the offer or counter the offer? I need an answer in three days.'
Then, I can ignore the problem for three days. Without fail, I will have the answer in three days.
I have confirmed this approach with some psychiatrist friends. But, they want to know all the specific things the unconscious mind performs while working on the question. For me, the answer is the only thing I want. Exactly how the unconscious mind derives its answers is not so important.