All too often, when we stop and take a good look at what we are doing, we learn that significant change is needed, to get going in the direction that we want to go. Being retired and semi-isolated due to COVID-19, most of my days (like so many other people), have resembled the Movie Groundhog’s Day, than anything else.
This feeling has been coming on for several months and came to a head when I created a new blog with the idea of changing what I was writing about back in January. I had thought about doing more than just blogging, but didn’t know what changes were necessary, besides change was going to happen.
I had some ideas on the direction I planned to go and was playing around with a lot of different productivity tools, philosophies, and reading what others were doing to get ideas to see how they worked for me. Yes, I even read David Allen’s update of Getting Things Done, went on a deep dive into Tiago Forte’s – world of Building a Second Brain (which I liked enough to pre-order his forthcoming book), and along with many others.
Then I had one of those “aha” moments that seem to pop up at the time we need it most.
It finally occurred to me that I see my writing as more than a hobby.
Writing is something that I take quite seriously, but looking back, I wasn’t doing the work necessary to take it where I want to go with it. Steven Pressfield’s resistance had taken control of my writing, while I was going through the motions, and losing sight of where I wanted to go.
“Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.” The War Of Art꞉ Winning the Inner Creative Battle eBook location 78 – Steven Pressfield
I realized that giving in to Resistance with my writing over the past few years was one source of my apathy towards many things. It also added to my growing sense of frustration because I was aware that I could do more with my writing and other parts of life than I was.
Shortly after that “aha” moment, we went in to do our taxes, our accountant, who had read my work in the past, asked when I was going to go back to writing professionally? I hemmed and hawed, cracked a couple of jokes, but her comment had me thinking even more about what I wanted to do with my writing even more.
Be generous to others, You never know where a kind word of encouragement will lead. That single instance of you saying the right thing at the right time, might be the tipping point of someone making changes that will improve their lives.
So, I started looking at the directions or possibilities that interested me over the next 5 to 10 years, not just tomorrow’s blog post. Which was something I hadn’t done for a long time. After thinking about it for almost a week, I decided to take our accountant’s advice, and put together a business plan for HBH-Writing that gives me a focus and structure moving forward towards the goals that I have set and lacked in the past.
When we went back in to sign our tax returns, I smiled and handed her a folder with a business plan and business card inside. She chuckled, smiled, and we talked for a couple minutes about what I was looking for. It was almost as if she knew I was struggling before and needed something more than letting life chart my course for me.
My expectations for HBH-Writing are not grandiose and my previous experience as an entrepreneur wasn’t exactly great, but this time I am going in with my eyes wide open. We will see where this crazy adventure leads me this time.
Even TheWife has noticed a significant drop in the amount of stuff that I forget, and I know she appreciates having “me” back as a partner. Versus someone, she has to watch over and worry about as much as she was starting to do.
I believe that it has a lot to do with having a purpose again, looking beyond simply making it through yet another edition of Ground Hog’s Day.
IT WAS TIME
After I got all that figured out, It was time to get organized, find a productivity system and tools that will work for the way that I do things now, not 10 years ago.
Which meant a substantial overhaul of what I was doing.
I had used the Franklin or Day Planner pen & paper systems quite successfully in the past. However, when I got out the old binders and looked at how I used to use them, I knew it wouldn’t work for the way that I do things now and the direction I am going. I knew their limitations when it came to retrieving information, even with the best of intentions. So, the pen & paper option went away quickly, although I will use my old binder as my inbox for my desk.
The thing is I have used on the big 3’s (Apple, Google, and Microsoft) productivity platforms enough over the years, that it wasn’t a surprise that pen and paper wasn’t going to be an option for me.
Ahhh yes, a desk. That was something that I identified as being necessary. I had gotten rid of mine several years ago and my desk had become my evening chair and the end table beside it. Which meant that I was constantly interrupted when writing by whatever was going on around me, whatever was on the television, or someone talking to me when I was attempting to write. None of which were good for focusing on writing.
I sat down and talked it over with TheWife about what I was doing and why. We discussed getting a desk, then remembered that there was one in the garage that might work. Until I got things a bit more focused on what needed to be done, I wanted to avoid spending a lot of money on putting together an area for me.
|My old Lenovo 230X/T – Yes, it is heavy and has all the ports, unlike my MacBook Air|
We set up the desk, and it is nice to have a space to put things besides cramming them in a folder on my dresser or in my bookcase. Also, I set it up to be used primarily as a stand-up desk, so I am not sitting all of the time. Now, if I want to write or work on something, I can go in and either shut the door or put my earbuds in and get to work. It was astonishing how much getting my own space back again helped me feel more in control of what I was doing, a feeling that I hadn’t felt in quite a while.
I really believe that we all need a space somewhere that we can call our own to put stuff, work quietly, read, participate in webinars, or even play computer games without being interrupted.
We all need a space that we can call our own.
What I learned
Stopping to think about where you are in your life and honestly evaluating what you are doing is an exercise that I believe we all need to do. It clears up a lot of the misconceptions and lies that we tell ourselves all too often.
The following quote from James Clear in his March 10th newsletter put the finishing touches on what I was attempting to say quite nicely this afternoon:
“Awareness is often enough to motivate change.
Simply tracking your food intake will motivate you to alter it. Merely writing down your problems may spark ideas for possible solutions.
The process starts with seeing reality clearly.”
It isn’t easy to see reality clearly and all too often what we end up seeing are our fantasies about how our lives are going. Those fantasies or dreamscapes can lead us down some treacherous paths that must be climbed out of before we can get back to living the lives that we could be living or at least moving towards.
For me, that moment was when I thought that I might be heading down the path towards Alzheimer’s and no longer me being me. A realization that forced me to stop and take a look at what was actually going on in my life.
It turned out that I had gotten lazy, didn’t have much purpose beyond getting through the days. I had started living in a Groundhog’s Day daze, that didn’t resemble the person that I wanted to be.
When I recognized that Steven Pressfield’s idea of resistance was really happening in my life, I knew that changes were needed. The changes I have made so far, finding a purpose and the ones that I will be making going forward, are for the best.
It is bringing me back to being me, not some lost old guy who ends up doing just enough to get by and fades away a bit more each day.
It feels good to be back, thinking about what comes next and having goals to chase down.
Next up in this series will be the tools that I have been experimenting with to see what newfangled gadgets and apps work best for how I do things.
This post is the second part of a multipart series on how I got back to having a system in place to help me remember what I need to get done, even in retirement. You can read part one here. Most of the productivity issues, ideas, and strategies, that I will be talking about throughout this series can apply to anyone, regardless of their age or work status.