Sometimes I think about how my life would look as a pie chart.
I’m pretty sure everyone does this, just like I imagine most people enjoy Venn diagrams as much as I do. Everyone loves a Venn diagram right? Right.
The pie chart fantasy is a visual representation of a long held fascination with the idea that when I die I’ll be presented with some sort of searchable database, where I can access information about anything and everything I have done in my life. I don’t believe in God, but if I did, God would basically be a gigantic spreadsheet.
‘God,’ I’d ask, ‘exactly how many times in my life did I walk into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and get distracted and leave again, never having made a drink?’
‘27,429 times,’ God would say, in a robot voice.
‘God,’ I’d ask, ‘exactly how many people did I sleep with in that dubious 18 months around the time I turned 20?’
God would whirr and click for a while, smoke might come out. You get the idea.
I imagine a not insignificant slice of the pie would be taken up with time spent thinking ‘I really should do some work I suppose’ and sighing a bit, and continuing to watch Golden Girls. I swear that some days I spend more time ALMOST working than I do actually DOING the work. It’s probably the part of being self-employed that I find the hardest, the letting go of the guilt around work when you’re not doing it. I started a part-time job, still on a self-employed basis, back in November and in that whole time I’ve only had four days completely off. I was even doing Instagram stories on Christmas Day.
There is something about being self-employed that makes it hard to switch off. The pandemic has made it worse because I’ve been working at home a lot more and the boundaries have become blurred. Even after 13 years of freelancing, I still struggle to completely let myself off the hook – I’m always thinking of other things I COULD be doing, or SHOULD be doing. It’s a seemingly never ending loop of procrastination – perhaps my brain thinks that a general sense of obligation counts for something, even if I’m not actually getting stuff done?
The thing of course that’s so frustrating is that thinking about it never actually equates to DOING it – I don’t spend 14 hours a day tied to my desk or anything, I just waste a lot of time feeling like I should be. I wonder though if without the constant internal nagging, I’d ever get anything done at all?
Can you actually get things done without discipline?
In Oliver Burkeman’s latest newsletter he talks about this and references an article, written around the time I first became freelance, that is about getting stuff done by not being mean to yourself.
In it the author talks about my exact problem, that idea of spending a huge part of your life setting yourself goals, writing schedules, tormenting yourself into getting stuff done and being miserable. Half way through and I was on board. ‘This women gets it,’ I thought, ‘any minute now she’s going to reveal the secret to my eternal happiness.’
(This is another thing I tend to do – imagine that one thing is going to change everything for the better, if only I could find out what the one thing was.)
Her secret it turned out, was kind of bullshit if I’m honest. It was pleasure – doing stuff just because you want to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pleasure, I just don’t think it’s necessarily a valid approach to work. View Post