These past two weeks have been some of the most unproductive weeks I can remember having in a very long time. By last Friday, my frustration level was high. I had been spending WAY too much time on emails, checking them every five minutes or so – not a great productivity practice, however, a great way to waste time. I also noticed I’d been procrastinating at doing work on a project I’ve been working on for a client. In fact, as I started thinking about it, that project was taking up an enormous amount of mental space and energy for the past two weeks, but not a lot of actual time from my day. So what was this all about?
Why did this simple project feel like such a burden? Why was I avoiding it, and why was I feeling so drained and consumed by it? As I asked this questions, it slowly became clear to me: This project is not something that is in my day-to-day “wheel house,” nor is it work I usually do.
Another thing I noticed – I was comparing myself to someone I know who does this type of work every day. I kept asking myself things like, “How would Susan handle this? What kinds of questions would she be asking? What kind of write up would she be compiling? Is my write up thorough enough? Will the client feel like they can make an informed decision about what action to take from what I’ve given him? Will he be disappointed that I didn’t give him a document as through as Susan’s would be? Should I be spending more time on this?”
It was a vicious circle, and I kept second guessing myself in the process. This was why I felt as if this project was so draining.
Then here was my next realization—this project is actually work I know how to do, but it is work I don’t like to do. This explained why I have been feeling so burdened by it. Doing work I don’t like to do and don’t feel as if I’m 100% on my game – ugh – exhausting!
Monday, when I realized that I’d been spending my time doing a “compare” with Susan, I decided that I needed to simply stop that train of thinking because I’m not as good at this as Susan is. This brings me to my second realization: I don’t need to do work I don’t like doing. There are people like Susan out there who would love that work. The next time a client asks me to do a project like this, I wil suggest they use Susan instead of me.
As soon as I got clear about what was going on and saw the “mental gymnastics” I’d been doing in my head, I started to feel relieved. I stopped avoiding the project. I started having more clarity about what I needed to do to finish it and was even able to clearly assess what needed to be changed and modified. I don’t think I could have done that last part if I was still doing the “Susan compare.”
What I learned: First, when stuff shows up as “hard,” there may be some internal dialogue we need to check in with to see if it is causing the difficulty. The willingness to ask myself what might be behind being ineffective and feeling overwhelmed enabled me to glimpse into the self-chatter that was consuming my thoughts.
Second, comparisons don’t work they just make us feel bad. Once I stopped comparing myself against Susan, I was able to flow in my work on the project more easily.
Third, clarity is the key to confidence. As I got clear about what made me feel so challenged and unproductive, I could “name it, and I stopped being run by it. I was able to get back on point.
The next time you find yourself letting a whole day be consumed by email and/or social media in a way that is keeping you from getting your job done, or when you feel overwhelmed and burdened, ask yourself what else might be going on. That clarity could be the key to getting back to what is important.
Make it an extraordinary day!