Story Teller, Author and Public Speaker
Get things done

Get things done

January is the worst month to get things done. There is too much time and time is a thief.

So, have I finished cleaning up? Am I ready, organised for another year? Of course not. Tasks that were outstanding just before Christmas are, in the main still, outstanding.

But I did finish reading several books, in particular Sane New World and Frazzled by Ruby Wax, stand-up comic turned psychotherapist, focusing on Mindfulness – being in the moment, no multi-tasking.

After a friend had a stroke, I bought him Norman Doidge’s The Brain that changes itself. I thought it might be useful as he approaches problems scientifically. I must check with him and see if he has found it helpful. I certainly did. Just the range of people who have studied the brain’s workings and different problems in dealing with the brain. Most of the research has been aimed at helping people resolve mal-function or lack of function of the brain.

One of the many cases which fascinated me were the researcher who had dealt with phantom limbs and how these can cause pain even though they are no longer there to get into painful situations. Like the confusion my laptop sometimes gets into that only gets resolved by being shut down and restarted, in some senses, confused messages to the brain were reset by clever exercises which included tricking the brain into amputating the missing limb.

I was also fascinated to read of the work of Sigmund Freud, who started as a neuroscientific researcher but went into private practice because he couldn’t afford to continue his research, yet many of his hypotheses were re-researched decades later and proved correct. His therapy, based on his research findings, enabled him to help people by just talking through their dreams and how they reacted to them. Such “talking” enabled the brain to go back, “regress” and deal with problems that had been buried.

I have often been thought of Freud as a charleton due to his reputation for reducing everything to sex. Someone who preyed on people’s problems and offering them a bogus cure. It turns out he was right. Talking about the past, that in some cases one would have thought you were too young to remember, even as young as seven months, can change the mal-functioning of your brain so you can respond intentionally in the present.

Which led me back to Ruby Wax’s books on mindfulness. Her “mal-function” was a behaviour “learned” in response to the environment she grew up in. When she realized its effect on her, she was able to “call” it and respond differently. Change her response and her life.

So how has this helped me? I still have all those jobs piling up waiting for me to deal with, with new ones’ looming, income-producing work “parked” for the holiday season. Holidays now ended these have to be dealt with.

Well, I am learning to focus on one task at a time. Not get distracted by all the tasks and revert to multi-tasking, which I know doesn’t work. When I am tempted to drift off into something that catches my fancy, stop and think about whether I really want to be distracted, or not.

Going for a walk yesterday to avoid the overactive air conditioning which makes dressing for the office on a hot day problematic. It is not just cooler, but colder inside and one longs to warm up, I stopped by the RACV to look at their library. Reminded by another distracting email that I hadn’t borrowed any books there lately. How could I? I was buried under my own books at home as well as books borrowed from the City of Melbourne Library. Does anyone else collect library memberships like I do? I even have a card for the Edinburgh library that I visited in 2011.

I hadn’t planned to borrow, just to read the daily newspapers. After all I should use the service I am paying for. Well, of course, the “new book” shelf caught my attention. One Second More a book on mindfulness and how to be more efficient at work. Cynics would say just doing the work is the answer. But it is only part of the answer. Knowing that you are being distracted and reacting rather than responding mindfully, intentionally to distractions.

Yesterday morning when I checked my emails there was finally the dreaded email from the gentleman whose car I had damaged by “unintentionally” backing into it. I could say that the road was narrow, his car parked right up to the gutter, on the nature strip, just shy of the road itself, or that I was stressed because I needed time alone and finally had it, but was still stressed so had not even been aware that his car was parked there. Was it in my blind spot?

No idea. I am sure I didn’t look to check. I hadn’t been drinking any alcohol but I certainly wasn’t “there” I was still in my stress.

Instead of stopping, thinking about why I was stressed and how I could react differently rather than slamming out of the house and backing the car into my neighbour. Not at any fast pace I might add. But even a slow reverse can cause damage, if you hit someone in the right spot.

So, my stupidity of response back in late December had been haunting me. I had only told one friend, knew it would cost me financially as well as emotionally as there would be an excess to pay. Money, I could ill afford, especially as I had just committed to an expensive exercise program.

The haunting of the anticipation of the outworking of this problem I had created, made me realise I had to deal with it. So, I realised I couldn’t afford the program, either financially or time-wise. Both true. Having faced the problem squarely, I then had to face disappointing my exercise friend, fearing her reaction and how it made me feel in the pit of my stomach. I hate upsetting people. In the past, I would have just saved money elsewhere and juggled my life to fit in a program I wasn’t that committed to.

My ability to do this was a win for me re-wiring my brain’s responses. Secondly, I made up my mind to ask for my second bag of coffee from the coffee shop I had crocheted mug cosies for. Here, my pain was relieved or prevented as my coffee-shop owner asked me if I was ready for it before I even managed to ask. His anticipation of my question was such a relief. I had been ready to speak, facing two dragons in one morning.

And the car accident? After an abortive attempt to find the car policy I went online and found the details. There are some advantages to having online access. Regrettably I couldn’t enter my claim online, had to telephone, but this turned out to be a bonus, as the claim was lodged promptly with no recriminations. I faced having to pay the excess, but my car would be repaired and my neighbour’s also. I was offered a repairer and a sweetener that my car would be vacuumed and washed before being returned. If my car were animate, it would have jumped for joy at the prospect.

I timed my phone call. It was all done in less than half an hour. I had responded to my neighbour’s request within the day, emailed him the details of the claim and the insurance. My third dragon had been faced and I could continue with work that needed to be done.

Yes, I failed. Was distracted by emails, but I didn’t respond emotionally. I thought about whether I would deal with the email straightaway or leave it.

I still have another dragon to face. I am looking forward to my response.

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