Producing Productivity

One day last week I woke up and felt like a sack of shit – pardon my French – in spite of feeling less itchy, achy, and fatigued than I had in the previous 24 hours. I did not want to get out of bed. Even worse, I could feel it brewing: that feeling I get, the one somewhere between blind raving panic and total apathy. The feeling I get when I wrench myself away from my nice cozy bed and realize that I slept long enough that I no longer feel like I’m getting a jump on the day, yet not long enough to feel rested, revitalized, and ready to take on my growing to-do list.

The last couple of weeks before something big in my life changes (like, say, the name of the continent I’m living on) I am a wreck. This is a given, and until I put a lot of effort into stoicism, Zen, or the Vulcan practice of Kolinahr, it is going to stay a given.

This is my life in exponential progressions: the growth of my to-do list; the shrinking of the time I have left to complete it. The filling of my e-mail inbox, in no small part due to this pile of time-consuming surveys I once signed up for in the hopes of earning a little bit of the “ka-ching” that Jessie J insists it’s not about.

Incidentally, one of the most perfect juxtapositions I’ve ever experienced was when I was walking down the street in Birmingham, England, and I noticed a man busking on the saxophone, case open in front of him. He probably had plenty of other material, but as I walked by, I picked out a familiar melody:

“It’s not about the money, money, money; we don’t need your money, money, money…”

I nearly fell over laughing, which I’m sure terrified my friend Alex, who was walking with me.

That feeling of “so much to do, so little time” is not one that I’m comfortable with – unless I know what I’m supposed to do next. And, right now, I don’t know: should I be focusing on packing, writing, taking photos, seeing all the people I’m not going to have another chance to see for a year, learning Korean, taking a TESOL course online, taking those ridiculous surveys that keep popping up in my inbox…?

Most of the time, the answers to this kind of question are simple. When the options are: finish your paper that’s due on Friday, do your laundry, go to the gym, or watch TV, you have a pretty decent idea what the consequences of each will be. At least, I usually do. The trouble is that the consequences of my choices in this regard are not clear to me right now; I genuinely do not know which of these various pursuits will prove the best use of the limited time and resources I have left on this continent.

Naturally, paralyzed by choices, I opt for “none of the above” and spend most of the day hand-wringing. And then the next day is worse, because I have one fewer day to get everything done, and no better idea of how or where to start.

That’s the state of mind I was in when I interrupted my mother’s game of FarmLand or CityTown – or whatever the semi-retired folks are playing on Facebook these days – and announced that I needed to accomplish something that day. I knew that anything I had on my to-do list was nebulous and vague enough that no matter how much work I put into any single item, I wouldn’t be able to finish it – and therefore wouldn’t feel like I’d accomplished a thing.

So I got some knives sharpened, had lunch with my mom and aunt, and came home to face the dreaded inbox. The terrible, gargantuan, exponentially-filling inbox. It got clean. And hey, look, I even wrote a blog post!

It wasn’t the most productive day I’ve ever had, but I did make progress. I didn’t wake up the next day to realize that I hadn’t really done anything in four days, and that made it that much easier to do something then, too.

Mission accomplished!

as far as I’m concerned.


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