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Getting it done... or not

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

I'm kinda done with getting it done. I'm focused on my painting which in my work-a-day fantasies was a life of luxurious laid backness. Instead I found myself waking up most mornings with my todo list top of mind. And while I no longer have to set an alarm, I still leap from bed (or what passes for leaping at my age) with the goal of getting it done!

Lately it has dawned on me that my todo list ends only when I do, so why on earth have I lusted after it for so long? I guess I bought into the productivity/efficiency fantasy so many of us have. It's the old You-Can-Do-It work ethic on technological steroids. For anyone who shares some of this impulse I highly recommend "Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals" by Oliver Burkeman who talks about "embracing limits and finally getting round to what counts." (And I confess here that somewhat ironically I got the audible version so I could listen while doing other important stuff - sigh).

It turns out efficiency can be the enemy of contentment. When you try to cram too much into the same time slot you get less out any one of those experiences. Clearly some tasks needn't be savored, but fewer than you think. Hanging the laundry, sweeping the entryway, doing the dishes are actually enjoyable when you pay attention. And while some activities enhance one another: Walking and talking with a friend, Listening to music while painting... it's worth thinking about it anytime you're trying to do multiple things at once: How many senses are you engaging fully and does each of them enhance or detract from the others?

I still love checking things off my todo list. I use the app TickTick which gives me an auditory reward when I check off a todo (and yes, I have added something I've already completed for the delicious ping). But I'm happiest when the getting it done is banished from my mind and I’m focused on the task at hand. Flow? Escape? I'm not sure what to call it, but I'm noticing that simple presence is always there in my happiest moments. I'm not thinking about what happens next, or what I should be doing instead of or in addition to. I'm involved in the moment. Presence.

So I've just stopped trying to cram as much "doing" into my days and instead I'm focused on what I'm doing at the moment. I'm happier, and ironically I've found I get more done. Plus there's more room for the unexpected! Rather than trying to squeeze that last bit of efficiency out of the day I'm sprinkling in moments of rest and reflection, pause and presence. I've been paying attention to which senses I'm engaging in with any particular activity and trying to see how few I can swim in for a period of time. Try it and let me know what you find!

It's also made me reevaluate how I celebrate paintings as they come off the easeI. I used to hold them all until the end of the month but I'm going to try adding them to my Fresh Off The Easel collection and posting them to the socials throughout the month. Let me know what you think!

And now I've got a couple of minutes before I head out to meet my friend for a walk so pardon me while I chill for a few.

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