Roz Chast’s brilliant graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, is about watching her elderly parents decline. I learned of this book from a list my mother sent me (12 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer and Storyteller), because apparently when I mention to my mother that I’ve been doing more writing lately her knee-jerk response is to assume I need help. I do my best at times like these to try to believe she thinks she’s being supportive.
To be fair, I absolutely loved the book and I am grateful to have been sent the list. It is a beautifully told story of heartbreaking events. I hope Ms. Chast won’t mind me taking a photograph of this one page. The context is filling out the mountains of paperwork required by insurance companies, hospitals, pension accounts, and so on, and so forth.
This image haunted me. This perfectly describes me at every job I’ve ever held. Bruising, crushing boredom combined with total fear of doing it wrong and being fired. (My last relationship can probably be described this way as well, but I’m trying to focus on job-related stuff in this post. There’s enough about my narcissistic ex on this blog already. I’m taking a break from him today.)
So, crushing boredom combined with everpresent anxiety. Fun times. Such is my life. And then, on twitter, I happened upon this:
And thus another spiral of revelations occurred. All of this describes me, both in and out of work. I try to focus on doing one task at a time. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I do not. Most of the time my focus is interrupted by the realization that there are six other things that need to get done. I either have to stop what I’m doing and add them to my to-do list or continue with the task at hand and hope I remember to do them later (spoiler: I usually don’t).
My job is not arduous. I don’t have to work long hours. My boss is kind. The tasks that are set in front of me are not outside my skill set. And yet, consistently, I don’t get it done. I mean to, and I know I have to, but I don’t. As I write this, I remember that high school class work was the same way.
Ah, but college… college was not. In college, I was put on Ritalin, and later, Concerta. Yes, those were the days. I would plow through every assignment. Any exam put in front of me was my bitch. I went from having a GPA so low after my first year of school that I was given an academic suspension, to graduating with honors four years later. Because of Ritalin and Concerta.
Somehow after college medication stopped working for me, though. Finally, about six years ago, I stopped taking anything. I’ve never noticed a difference.
I think the key for me in college was adrenaline and anxiety. When the pressure is on I can get things done. But I can’t handle the pressure being on for very long, so I don’t do well in high-pressure jobs. I don’t do well with boredom, either, though.
Thankfully, I’m in a job where I seem to be able to adjust the pressure to my liking. Late last week I was called out because a few essential tasks hadn’t been done. Frankly, I hadn’t done all that much in a good 2-3 months. Somehow anything that wasn’t urgent was put on the back burner through the holidays and there wasn’t all that much that was urgent, and I got complacent. Now, a bunch of different tasks that I kept meaning to get to all were noticed at the same time, and the pressure is on.
I find it exciting. I like my work to have consequences. I like to not slog through every day waiting for the day to end just so the next one can begin.
I’ll be honest here… all the work that I put off doing for 2-3 months? I got it done today. All of it.
I know I don’t lack intelligence. I seriously lack motivation, though.
For those of you who, like me, seriously lack the ability to stay organized and on top of the multitude of tasks life throws your way, I highly recommend the free tools available on Trello combined with the Getting Things Done methodology espoused by David Allen. See this link to see what I mean.
I mean, you do still have to remember to add things to the lists and look at the lists, which is where I often fail, but if the system is actually used it works perfectly for me.
And that’s half an hour. Time to go have a glass of wine and do some reading. I started Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall before bed last night and I can’t wait to get back into it. What are you reading?