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Paralyzed by choice [Jan. 17th, 2009|09:31 am]
[Current Mood |annoyedself-flaggelating]

One of the things I hate about myself: if I have too many things I want/need to do, I will sometimes lose precious hours because I can't decide in what order to do them. Intellectually, I know; just pick one, do it, then pick the next. Emotionally, and especially if I'm at all tired, I will find that first choice to be cripplingly hard.

This is not a trait that I enjoy about myself. It brings me no pride, no comfort. So why do I do it?

Perhaps my resolution for this not-so-new-now year should be to spend no more than 5 minutes making a choice of what to undertake. Ordering the entire day has been a failure for me in the past because if something comes up to disrupt the order then, OCD me, I am completely derailed.

Well, now I've completed "make LJ entry." Time to get on with the next decision.

[User Picture]From: theferrett
2009-01-17 02:58 pm (UTC)
Or, and this is just a thought, you could ask Ferrett, and he will give you a decision right away.

A little Dommy, but efficient.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 03:27 pm (UTC)
My worry would be that it would put you in a position to nag and I would get cranky.
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[User Picture]From: dhimahi
2009-01-17 03:16 pm (UTC)
I'm not certain exactly how you come up with your TO DO list. So, if I am repeating something you have already tried, pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain... she's probably showering.


I make lists. Simple and efficient. And I don't put them in any order except when order is required (example: it's difficult to do laundry when I haven't yet gone to the bank for quarters).

But, my favorite way of dealing with to do's... is make a game of it (la gamer geeque speaks) and assign points to stuff. I assign more points to things I. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. DO.

It makes it more fun in many ways. And if you figure out what you WIN, that makes it better.

Good luck. And go out there and WIN!!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 04:13 pm (UTC)
I kind of like the game idea. I will have to think up rewards.
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[User Picture]From: jeffpalmatier
2009-01-17 05:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I used to get easily overwhelmed years ago--especially when I was a grad student. One thing that helped a lot was going on anti-anxiety medication. The other was that I became a lot more fatalistic. A lot of my anxiety came from being scared that I would fail if I didn't choose to do tasks in the right order, or decide to devote the right amount of time and energy to them. Nowadays, I just make a decision, and just accept that I very well might fail or made the wrong decision about how to attack all these tasks, but I refuse to flip out anymore about having to do a ton of tasks.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 08:06 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is the approach I should take. It's too easy to lose them all by not choosing one of them.
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[User Picture]From: roaming
2009-01-17 05:59 pm (UTC)
You just don't want to kill the kittehs.

I used to work for he counseling and consulting psych dpt at the Harvard Grad School of Ed. One day I told my boss, a brillian teachers but deranged human being, I'd had a dream about the office. (Or so I thought.) I was standing at the edge of my office, and the floor was a sea of writhing, tumbling, mewling kittens, as though tossed in the ocean. And they were all black and white. I knew, as one does in dreams, that the "rule" was I had to pick one to save; but as soon as I did the others would drown. Of course I couldn't pick, I woke up instead.

She interpreted it to mean I loved all my interests equally, and to pick on to devote time and energy too would mean giving up doing the others. Instead, by not picking, I could live in hope that they all would remain viable potential.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 08:03 pm (UTC)
That is totally true. And instead they all die a slow death. Grrr.
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[User Picture]From: cyan_blue
2009-01-17 08:47 pm (UTC)
Good resolution!
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[User Picture]From: kisekinotenshi
2009-01-17 09:42 pm (UTC)
This is exactly my problem as well. My mother has never had this problem, and we both tend to get extremely frustrated with each other because she tells me to just do something, and I can't for the life of me manage to pick one thing to do. It's awful and I hate it. XP
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 09:52 pm (UTC)
It's frustrating; believe me I feel what you feel.
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[User Picture]From: irishgalinabq
2009-01-17 10:31 pm (UTC)
Someone above kind of harked on this but according to any "I have a problem with procrastination" books I've read. You should:

1) Make a list
2) Highlight the tasks you are dreading
3) Do those tasks first (they will never be as bad as you thought and it actually gives you a pep for the day)
4)Save the fun tasks for times like just after lunch or later in the evening when your focus is less.

You mentioned before that the morning is your time of greatest focus so you should put the dreaded tasks there in your most productive time. Also, yes, rewards are important. Try to avoid food rewards or you'll end up as fat as me!! A nice walk or play with the dog can be nice too. It sounds a bit crazy, but a friend of mine who worked from home paid herself a mini bonus every time she completed something hard. She just put $50 into her holiday bank account. She said it was a great motivator!

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 10:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah, food rewards are definitely out - I'm struggling with weight I put on anyway. But the list idea is a good one - in fact, I put one together today with the minimal things I want to do every day. I may add more things to it, but I don't want my OCD to overwhelm me with too many things.

No dog, and right now it's so cold that a walk sounds like punishment! I am thinking that I will award myself points and reward myself with shopping for crafty, fun things. That should inspire me!
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[User Picture]From: gardenwaltz
2009-01-17 10:31 pm (UTC)
I have this problem as well, mostly with my to-do list. The best solution that I have found is to either pick something at random or choose something quick just to get it off the list.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-17 10:58 pm (UTC)
I'm going to start making todo lists that include *all* the things I want to get done in a day instead of just work things. Picking things off probably will help.
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[User Picture]From: hyrkanian
2009-01-18 12:56 am (UTC)
I've dealt with the same problem all my life. I've tried all kinds of tricks, some that work better than others. Recently wooden_reef and I started having morning "brain dump" sessions (a la Getting Things Done which is an awesome book) which have helped immensely. We sit at the kitchen table with notebooks and write down every single thing we think of that needs doing. No filtering for practicality or importance, just write it all down. The first time we did this we had about four full pages of stuff *each*. Seriously. Then we compare lists and mark off of one list the stuff that is on both. Then we rate each thing for urgency of completion (1 is do it today without fail. 2 is do it today if we can. 3 is do it this week if we can. etc. etc.) Put the 1's on a fresh sheet of paper and pick one. When that's done, scratch it off and pick another. The list decides what is next, sort of.

Once you have all this stuff on paper and off your mind, it is such a relief. GTD's author is spot on with that. If you're worried about forgetting things you're burning mental energy uselessly. Write it out, on paper, by hand. Typing it on a computer doesn't have the same effect.

We also incorporated some of Flylady's techniques such as a "control journal" (we renamed it "household planning" because control felt icky for some reason). Every day's brain dump lists go in a ring binder, newest list on top but all the others are there as well, so everything that was swirling around in your brain screaming for attention is now in ONE PLACE. The ring binder has a permanent home in the kitchen, so when we need to consult or add to a list we can find it without turning the house upside down.

Remind yourself that planning is PART OF THE TASK. It isn't keeping you from doing things, it's making it possible to do them. Just having a short list of "have to do today or I'm dead meat" tasks helps me focus on what's most important.

I like the ideas above about doing the most dreaded tasks first, that is something I'm going to try.

Between GTD, Flylady, and some other organizing books and websites, we're hammering out a system that is (so far) working for us. Hopefully we can keep it up. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-18 02:05 pm (UTC)
I know this is awful of me, but damn, I'm exhausted just reading this! It probably isn't as complicated as it sounds, but the description is giving me an anxiety attack.
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[User Picture]From: tallest_spork
2009-01-18 03:56 am (UTC)
My trick for this: Flip coins. Especially if you're in a group of people that's having a hard time deciding what to do. If you don't actually have a coin on you, assign values to each one, turn to the person next to you, and ask them "heads or tales?"

This is best for arbitrary choices (I always have a hard time choosing which movie to watch and what toilet paper to buy)

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-18 02:06 pm (UTC)
Movies, yes. Thankfully, we have the toilet paper issue resolved. ;-) A coin or dice toss isn't a bad plan, though.
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[User Picture]From: wolflady26
2009-01-18 11:17 am (UTC)
I wonder if it would help to write everything down on a post-it sized piece of paper, crumple it up, and toss it into a bowl. Or several bowls, for different priorities. Then you could just reach into the bowl, grab a piece of paper, and start work on it. If you get stuck on the task, crumple it back up, throw it back in, and pull out another.

You could still incorporate the game part by giving yourself points for accomplishment based on bowl priority.

A list still has all of those to-dos staring you in the face, which would seem daunting to me, and I'd still be *seeing* all of those things I'm not doing.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-18 02:08 pm (UTC)
My only hangup with that is that I am going crazy with clutter and adding one more thing when all I want to do is subtract. But it might be workable in some ways, like by assigning numbers to the things and throwing dice.
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[User Picture]From: casu_consulto
2009-01-18 11:22 am (UTC)
Wow, this sounds exactly like me. What's worse is that I often can't even sit down to make a "to do" list - because, you know, there are too many things to do and I don't have time to make a list. Cue total productivity fail.

Edited b/c I realised I was messing with your privacy! Sorry. :-(

Edited at 2009-01-18 11:24 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-18 02:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the edit, but yeah, I think you had a point. I do think that there is a relation between the two, particularly in the "getting launched in the first place" aspect.

And you are also right re: getting the "to do" list made. I've managed to make a list of the everything daily stuff that I want to get done, and I have a computer program for all my work-related deadlines. Now figuring out how to handle infrequent or one-time things remains.

Plus, of course, implementation. That's always my downfall. I'm great at upheaval things, crap at routine.
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[User Picture]From: nuala
2009-01-18 03:13 pm (UTC)
Prioritisation is a bitch. So do you do the thing that will take you less time, or do you do the thing that will take more time and possibly not finish the other thing on time, or ... Sometimes I'll do a little task if it means feeling accomplished enough to get on with something else. Sometimes it's a matter of what has to be completed first. Good luck!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-19 03:44 am (UTC)
Thanks! Today I got none of my tasks done, but spent the day with friends. Priorities include that, too!
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[User Picture]From: gravityslave
2009-01-18 04:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know that feeling all too well!
I need to find a way to organize my life into a series of small projects that I can finish quickly and hop onto something else before I get bored or start to feel stuck. That's the problem that occurs when I finally do manage to make a decision on what to do.
My mom thinks (this is very useful now that I'm thirty) that I have all the symptoms of ADD, which makes me think I probably need to go play outside more. Or something.
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[User Picture]From: miripanda
2009-01-18 09:55 pm (UTC)
Gah...I am /just/ like that. I keep chalking it up to ADD and resolving to figure out how/where I can get screened for it and possibly try some meds. I literally did almost nothing for a whole month at work because I couldn't settle on one project to move forward with.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-01-19 04:20 am (UTC)
Meds do help, but they still require a certain level of discipline.
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