Get out of that rut!

“Anytime you are unhappy in the present or feeling unsuccessful, it is time to learn from the past or plan for the future.” The Present by Spencer Johnson

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they are stuck in a rut. If you are the lucky person who always has a busy, fulfilling and happy life then please email me with the secret!

happiness

Me, I go up and down like one of those round toys on a string that we played with as children but are now banned from the school playground. Yes, the yoyo!. Sometimes I’m on top of everything, the positive thinking is doing its trick and even mild setbacks, like rain dripping through the living room ceiling, fail to faze me; get a bucket – no problem. Life’s a joy. Throw something at me – I catch it. Knock me down and I bounce back up.

Then come the darker times. The times when an innocuous comment hits a nerve and sends me scurrying away in floods of tears. The times when I’m not achieving my goals.The times when work is dull, my social life non-existent and I dwell on the purpose of existence.

Reading The Present by Spencer Johnson I realised that:  a) I am personally responsible for my happiness and there is something I can do about those low or unproductive times and b) it is near impossible to change other people. The only option, if I am unhappy, is to look at myself to change the situation.  If I can’t change the circumstances then I must change my attitude towards them.

As family and friends know I have been working on my first fiction novel for…er…um…nearly three years. I desperately want to finish it but for some reason I procrastinate and have periods when I don’t touch it for weeks. I blame the house for constantly getting itself dirty, compelling me to clean.  I blame the sun for making the grass and plants proliferate, forcing me to spend the day mowing and pruning.  I even blame my son for coming home from uni: ‘How can I focus when you’re asking what’s to eat every five minutes?’

Damn stuff just keeps on growing!

Damn stuff just keeps on growing!

And I know, deep down, that none of these reason are valid because many people write books as well as work and look after a family.

So, after some reflection on the wise words of Spencer Johnson in the quote above I looked at how I could learn from the past and plan for the future.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been very slovenly with my time. As I generally sleep for no more than seven hours a night that leaves a whole seventeen hours conscious and capable (well almost!). Do you know how much you can achieve in seventeen hours? Quite a lot, I learnt.

As the primary excuse for lack of words on laptop was insufficient time I decided to record everything I did for a few days and how long each task took. Surprise! Surprise! Nowhere near as long as I thought. For example, I had set aside one whole day to get the paperwork ready for the accountant.  I completed the work in six hours but because that was the only job for the day I faffed around with other little bits until dinner – then read a book. That’s six hours of constructive work out of a total of seventeen.

Now, I’m not one who likes a strict regime. You know, shepherd’s pie on a Monday, vacuum the house on a Tuesday for example. I work from home because I like the flexibility and the opportunity to take up the offer of lunch, or some other distraction, should the occasion arise. But like most people who work from home, my time management is somewhat lax.

Not one for spreadsheets either (I used to laugh at my daughter who planned her meals for the week) I decided to give them a go (this is the planning for the future bit that The Present refers to) and I have to admit that, so far, it’s working. So much so, that I try to start some of the following day’s tasks in advance to get ahead!

I am happy to report that the novel is progressing nicely and I get a great deal of pleasure striking through each task on the spreadsheet when completed. I am currently ahead of schedule and if this continues, the novel should be finished booksby Christmas.

I was feeling quite demoralised and, at one point, considered abandoning the novel completely but now feel back in control. I am happy – for the moment at least. I can also see that this philosophy can be applied to most circumstances.

If my social life is boring I have to make an effort to enrich it because most of the time it is pure laziness that prevents me from arranging to meet a friend or book an evening at the theatre. I blame hubby for not wanting to go into London as he is not a theatre fan but, as he is unlikely to change, it is up to me to arrange to go alone or with a friend.

Knowing I have the power to change many things that make me feel stuck is extremely liberating. A little effort with a change of mindset and, as Del Boy would say: the world’s my lobster!!