For the last couple of days, I’ve felt paralyzed. There is just so much to do – how will I ever get all this done?
Paralysis is different for me than a lack of motivation. When I’m not motivated, I lay in bed and watch the entire second season of Love on Netflix. (OK, so maybe I was a little unmotivated last night before going to bed).
But when I’m paralyzed, I’m in front of my computer screen. I’m staring at my to do list or the open document or my email inbox. I’m right there where with the work, and I even want to do the work, I just can’t. The pure volume of work to be done is so great that I am struck motionless.
Of course you see the issue with this – the longer I stay paralyzed, the more insurmountable the pile of work seems to become, which would make me more paralyzed. How do I break the cycle?
I’m not a doctor, but I’ve found one method for curing this paralysis that generally works for me.
The method comes from The Artist’s Way, a textbook used by a legendary creativity professor at Ohio State (whose class I never actually took). The author refers to “Morning Pages.”
Morning Pages are described as an important part for allowing for daily creativity. You grab a notebook, you clear some time, and you write out three handwritten pages. What you write doesn’t matter, and you don’t need to write them for anyone else. It doesn’t matter if you or anyone else in the entire world ever actually read them. The point is to let your thoughts flow out onto the page and give your mind some breathing room.
Before reading this book, a mentor of mine described his morning routine to me, which included sitting down and typing all of his waking thoughts into a Word Doc so that he could reference them later and unburden his mind.
Taking these two models in mind, I’ve sort of fused them together. When I’m feeling paralyzed, I’ve found that usually my mind is stuck on sort of a loop, and I’m not even consciously aware of it. As I sit there, staring at a screen in silence, I seem to be actually processing a lot of thoughts at a subconscious level that are bogging me down.
When this happens, I open up a new sheet in Evernote and just begin to type. No premeditation, no plan, I just type and see what comes out. Generally, I’ll begin writing some thoughts, ideas, or concerns that I didn’t even register as having with the goal of typing at least 1000 words.
Then, once I get through the catharsis of acknowledging my emotions, my mind kicks back into productivity mode. Sometimes it even becomes an exercise in self appreciation or creating a list of action items (Here’s an actual short entry from January).
I can’t say for sure if this will work for you, but it may be worth trying. The biggest hurdle is moving out of paralysis and onto the page.
Further reading: your memory sucks