Yesterday I wrote the last words in my first diary I’ve ever filled with text. I’ve written diaries before, but always ended up writing only on the first pages before tiring altogether and burying the book in a mound of paper. The first diary contains a sketch over a physics lesson I took when I was eight, so I’ve been doing this for a long time. The root of this habit is me being hellbent at starting at 100% and go on at 100% for the rest of my life.
In theory at least. Because it’s hard to keep that dedication when you start from zero. Your mind, like your muscles, needs a period of excersise before they reach their full potential. When I started at 100% without any training I quickly wore out my dedication, stopped writing for a few days, forgot the diary and gave up on myself. To be clear; I gave up both on writing a diary and on my own character. I told myself I wasn’t able to keeping up the regular habit of writing – which is strange because I’ve always written fiction regularly.
This trait is quite human and doesn’t only affect diary writing. Fitness providers are accustomed to a surge of members after New Year and the trickling off of people who made a resolution to lose weight, but couldn’t keep the motivation up. Language studies, writing books and buying an old house to renovate are other projects that tend to die after the first rush of excitement. As humans we’re both frail in our determination and enthusiastic when facing new projects to dig into.
But the reasons behind these dropped projects are not a mass of faulty characters doomed to fail – though we have a tendency to tell ourselves just that. One important reason is that we’re bombarded with advice on how to handle activity and plan our tasks, but few tell us how to handle rest and meh-feelings. When that rainy day occurs our entire system falls.
Just like your mind needs training to keep up a habit you do need training in how to handle rest and meh-days. You need to cut yourself some slack, and don’t allow anyone make you believe that this is unnecessary. One of my first lessons in project management was to allow for project members to have time for chatting between cubicles, grab a snack every now and then, and use the restroom (sort of scary that they thought the last one was in need of mentioning). Those informal meetings and periods of rests often lead to creative solutions to problems that had plagued the projects for weeks.
The tricky thing with rest is that you sometimes need it outside your schedule. Time management systems may work like clockwork – we humans do not. So the most important thing to learn is how to set up your days so you can lose a few posts on your to-do list if a meh-day should turn up. The best way is to use a diary and write your to-do lists in it – that way you can pick up those missed posts if they are important. Funnily enough they seldom are when you look at them the day after. Put some extra care in training to pick up a project after a meh-day. It’s actually easy after that first start up.
The other important thing is to learn your own limits and strengths. When you start out you need to go in a slow pace, allow for a lot of dropped posts and mess things up. Pick up the project again, analyze the troubles (diary!), try to find out how you work and find methods that fits your habits. Since you are going to do this several times you can, and should, do this briefly; two sentences in the diary at most. This may sound like extra work, but is the thing that allows you to rest without losing your habit. Then you fix the things you can fix, since your goal is to reach a better potential. After a while you’ll have a better knowledge on how to rest and how to work – and you’ll have worked up a better pace.
The last thing you need to learn is that even as a time management master you’ll stumble on things that throws you out of the loop – and that’s okej. Make sure your planning always have a few extra days and that you have a few posts on the list that you can sacrifice if a squeeze occurs. (If your life is an 24-7 squeeze you need stronger meassures. I’ve been there too, and I may write a post about it in the future. Don’t despair – it is possible to fix.) Slack is not just those carefully planned ”resting days”, it’s knowing what to do when you realise you’ve spent an afternoon playing solitaire on the computer. And it’s knowing that you are allowed to skip the regular excersises, like diary writing, since you know how to pick it up the next chance you have.
Allow yourself that slack, it’s good for you!