I was very productive yesterday.
I arrived early to work, I wrote two articles, I developed mock-up materials for a project and I had a successful briefing with my director. When I came home, I put dishes away and made dinner and wrote in my journal. I also finished the last two episodes of GIRLBOSS while simultaneously organizing files on my computer. (Yes, finishing a TV series is something I shamelessly add to my to-do list).
Around 11:30 p.m. – just as I was about to get ready for bed – I started to feel anxious.
I suddenly remembered a thousand things I needed to do and started kicking myself for how little attention I’d paid to my blog over the past few weeks.
I glanced at my bookshelf and spotted four books that I’ve been meaning to read and felt overwhelmed by the amount of self-help knowledge that I have yet to discover.
I walked into my room and noticed my vision board hanging on the wall, only half complete, and a big pile of clothes sitting on my chair that I hadn’t put away since the “I have nothing to wear” debacle from earlier that morning.
I climbed into bed, scrolled mindlessly through my phone and, realizing it was almost one in the morning, fell deeper into a spiral of shame.
“Great, now I’m going to wake up tired, which means I’ll probably hit snooze a million times and end up being late for work. And that run I wanted to go on in the evening? Forget about it. I won’t have the energy.”
My mind was racing and I couldn’t fall asleep.
But why? I’d done so much in one day, surely the rest could wait for tomorrow?
For me, I think the issue stems from the fact that I have struggled with consistency my entire life. My productive capacity has been on a roller coaster ride for as long as I can remember; I have periods of productivity, bursts of energy and great bouts of creativity – but then one hair falls out of place and suddenly it’s back to the drawing board.
The days that I’m 100 percent on my “A” game are so few and far between that, once the sun sets, I get anxious about going to bed because I know that I won’t be nearly as productive the following day.
In other words, I have yet to master the art of self-control and discipline, so I just accept defeat and choose to berate myself instead.
This has been an ongoing issue in my life – until last night! After tossing and turning for what seemed like an hour, I decided to do something to make myself feel better.
I opened Google Docs on my phone and created a new document entitled “My Ideal Week.” With no game plan in mind, I began writing in present tense about what my life would look like if I was constantly performing and progressing to the best of my ability.
- “I am in bed by 11:00 p.m. every night.”
- “Every morning I get dressed in the outfit I picked out the night before.”
- “My room is always clean and organized and everything has a spot.”
- “I go for a run every Monday and Wednesday after work.”
- “Each month I challenge myself to learn a new skill or do something I’ve never done.”
- “I don’t complain or worry about things I can’t control.”
And so on and so on and so on…
By the time I finished writing, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I gave my work a quick read-through and let out a sigh of relief as I realized that everything I wanted to achieve in this “ideal week” was actually well within my reach.
Further, by reading between the lines, I was able to identify the tiny (and often invisible) causes of stress in my day-to-day life. For example, I wrote that in my ideal world, “every morning I get dressed in the outfit I picked out the night before.” This tells me that I tend to feel rushed in the mornings and lose precious time trying to coordinate an outfit. And because it takes me so long to find a look I’m happy with, I don’t usually have time to put my clothes back on their hangers so I end up coming home after work to a messy room that does nothing but cause me more stress.
It’s a vicious cycle!
Thankfully, I’ve now discovered a mental hack that pulls me out from the quicksand and puts me back onto solid ground.
I guess that’s why all the self-help books tell you to use positive affirmations and be careful with your words and only put good thoughts into the world. If you believe in the Law of Attraction, and if thoughts really do become things, then all you’re doing by complaining and speaking negatively about yourself is further embedding those bad vibes into the universe. And if like attracts like, then you my friend are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Long story long, the next time you’re feeling anxious and find yourself playing a solo blame game, try this “tried and true” (if I do say so myself) coping mechanism: PAUSE and PIVOT into a positive frame of mind.
Immediately stop the shaming and blaming. Then take a deep breath and envision yourself doing all the things you know you should be doing. Write these down or say them out loud, and be sure to recycle those thoughts on a continuous basis. Before you know it, you’ll be singing along with Bob Dylan because… the times, they are a-changin’.
Say it with me: Pause and pivot! Pause and pivot!