Sinks & drains


What is this life, if, full of care

There is no time to stand and stare

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows

No time to see, when woods we pass

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass

No time to see, in broad daylight

Streams full of stars like skies at night

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance

And watch her feet. how they can dance

No time to wait til her mouth can

Enrich the smile her eyes began

A poor life this, if, full of care

We have no time to stand and stare.

(W H Davies)


I have been stalled, badly, to the extent that I’m barely scratching the surface of the things I want to get done, for some weeks now. In fact, ever since we had the half-term holiday & I was forced to take a break. Ever since, I’ve been struggling to pick myself back up and get off that break and back down to serious work. There are a number of reasons why. Having that time off gave me a little pause: it lifted away the weight of the daily grind – the damn schedule, the to-do list – that demands my time and attention more than any of the children, always nagging away with that must-do sequence of jobs – housework, kidstuff, Magpies, writing, and gave me a taste of freedom.

Lazy Day on the Beach by (Flickr creative commons)

Lazy Day on the Beach by (Flickr creative commons)

When I came home, the weight of it all settling back onto my shoulders was almost unbearable.

And the list stretches an eternity before me, never-ending, an infinite toil without thanks or hope of completion. Suddenly, having had the time to look up at the view, to see what was around me right now and to spend some time in the moment to just ‘stand and stare’, has made me feel what dull drudgery I wallowed in before.

I felt defeated, overwhelmed and demotivated. I’m never going to finish that list, so why even bother starting?

And this is where a little past form comes into play: a life littered with half-completed projects, and I’ve sworn over and over again that I will either complete or close the lot of them. A further factor: my ‘Belbin’ profile.

Allow, if you will, a brief digression whilst I explain myself. Belbin is a management theorist who defined, in context of organisations, an assessment that gives insights into an individual’s behaviour in a team environment, based on the expression of traits for the various team roles. These traits are, to a degree, flexible in that most individuals will fit more than one of the 9 team roles, and that their traits will vary depending on the make-up of the team in which they find themselves. A more complete explanation of the “Team Inventory can be found over at Wikipedia.

In my corporate days, I went through several of these assessments (always a favourite on ‘team building’ exercises 😉 ), and I almost invariably came out strongest on three roles: my primary role was that of  ‘plant’ – the creative, uncommunicative, off-the-wall free-thinking problem solver (funny that), with secondary roles as the Implementer (as the name implies, the one who puts their head down, gets the job done & delivers the goods) and the Completer-Finisher – the picky perfectionist who insists it’s all done right.

When it comes to getting things done, these three are powerful traits that continue to do me great service.

Where they undermine me is in my core thinking. That damn Plant generates ideas like a little dynamo, always spinning new projects, solutions to old problems, better ways of doing/being/working. Trouble is, the Implementer gets hold of them before they’ve been through any sort of feasibility or practicability assessment and just wants to get at them, and then the Completer-Finisher gets totally frustrated that it can’t all be done in the available time and throws all the toys out of the pram, and I’m left exhausted and feeling like a total failure because I haven’t met the impossibly high standards I’ve set for myself.

So there’s the rub.

I’ve been wallowing – unable to get moving, paralysed by the weight of the almighty list in every area, and with little energy to move or change things.

Until last week, when I read Christine Kane’s blog, and, more importantly, her post “Are you leaking?”.

It made me realise that my mind was as cluttered up with ideas and projects as an attic-full of old boxes, and that the amount of energy they were draining off me was crippling me. I need to sort them out, and discard those I won’t ever use again. I realised that when faced with seems like a sisphyean task, I’ll divert my force around the immovable object and start frittering away my time on whatever time-sinks come to hand, so that I don’t have the time to even start the big project.

It also made me realise, obliquely, that it’s not neccessary to delay starting something because I can’t finish it in its entirety in the immediate timeslot available. It is possible to break these big tasks down into smaller, incremental chunks, and to accomplish those in series, over a period of time, will get me there as surely as trying to slog it through from start to finish and paying the price in exhaustion and loss of love in the project.

I’d been so focussed on completing the tasks, that I’d forgotten about enjoying myself.

I’d forgotten that these things on the list are the things I *want* to do, that they are things I *enjoy* doings, and that they are more important to me than all the daft (but fun) ways of wasting time I’ve been indulging myself in so that I don’t have to face up to those realisations.

So I’ve started making some changes.

I know it won’t be easy, and I know I won’t get it instantly right, but I know that it will be worth doing.

I’ll continue to disconnect from all those distractions, to avoid the time-sinks that eat up my minutes and leave me with nothing. And I’m going to carry on attacking the energy drains.

A simple thing I’ve done this week: if I notice a job needs doing, if it takes less than 5 minutes, I do it there and then. I have set times for certain tasks, and outside of those times I simply don’t do them. If they’re that important, I’ll do them in their slot when that next comes around – e.g. housework – but they get prioritised against the other housework tasks that need doing. And I’m building breaks into my day – two periods where I stop working and play with the children, allow myself to have a little fun.

We’re all doing well on it.

I’m feeling more energised and less stressed, and not having a to-do list hanging over my head is making life much, much easier. For the ‘work’ areas – writing and textiles – I have lists, but they’re worked out and prioritised. What I’ve done is to remove the timetables – as far as possible (textile commissions always come with deadlines 😉 ) – and just allow myself to take as long as it needs to take to get the job done. And of course the children are enjoying getting to spend more time with a less-stressed parent …

My Implementer isn’t totally happy about the lack of schedule, and my Aspie-self is more than a little uncomfortable with the new routines, but overall, I feel like the weight of tasks has lifted and I’m much, much happier.

Finally, I feel like I’ve got some breathing space.

What is really, really strange – and something I haven’t quite figured out yet – is that by consciously deciding to do LESS, I’m actually achieving more.


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