Following on from 'yesterday': how did you get on?
Is your day more structured now? Have you established a routine?
If you wrote down your goal - first step to realising it - then 'laced up your shoes' so to speak, hopefully you found yourself already moving forward, gathering momentum and overcoming that inertia....
To demonstrate the 'proof of the pudding', I had to enforce a rest and a 'break from structure' this weekend (it being a bank holiday it was justifiable!). Because I had embraced my own rule 'too' readily. My goal was to make sure that I take a decent period of exercise each day and get out the house, away from the interior isolation situation. In line with the 'brushing one's teeth' analogy, I was so successful at making my goal invisible, automatic, I found myself jumping out of bed (somewhat!) earlier than normal to go cycling. On ever more prolonged circuits of the nearby countryside. Perhaps the weather has doubly inspire me to this, but that's beside the point. I couldn't not do it, in the same way, to avoid brushing my teeth, performing my morning ritual ablutions would prevent me starting the day properly. So successful was my strategy that I continued into the weekend, and was getting increasingly tired and drained from almost too much exercise!
Being positive about this, I am fitter, leaner, not in need of motivational impetus to do so again. And I now appreciate the 'holiday' that gives me an allowed break from that routine.
Ok, now we have established this principle, and that it works, what next?
What is it today that prevents me from doing x,y,z? Or knowing where to start if there are too many letters in the alphabet to focus on in my roster of tasks?
White board. An invaluable tool. It doesn't have to be an actual white board. We don't want to make today's sticking point about the search for an actual white board, the lack of which prevents us getting ANYTHING done! I use an old cupboard door, or a shelf from my previous kitchen before a new one was installed! But write stuff down!
We need to map out the things which give us 'pain'. The nagging thoughts, the obstacles - those tasks talked about previously that are brushed beneath the carpet. Get them out in the open, on the table (whiteboard).
Our primary task 'today' is to note down first what all the possible tasks are that could be focused on. Don't worry about the order. Jut get them down. Being able to look down the list will help in determining what's feasible, what's desirable, what's important or less so. If they all seem vital, crucial to achieve in one day, but impossible, overwhelming, well, that's a useful start because if something is impossible why worry about achieving it!!!?? Or put another way, the impossible can often motivate one to greater success than can be achieved by setting the bar much lower, to the more easily achievable, and ultimately less satisfying.
An overview of all these tasks may provoke recognition of common aspects of different tasks, links not so obvious before. Softening one's attitude towards this flood of demands by stepping back, adopting the same 'mindful' approach one may take towards one's cacophany of thoughts likewise will help the brain form strategies and resort to a more efficient way of dealing with what needs to be done. [Remember we are aiming to take control over the brain's ability to find the most efficient way to do things, to eradicate wastefulness and find patterns in the noise.]
So let's pause and take this thought on board. It doesn't matter how many tasks you have written down, how overwhelming it may look, for now you are applying a mindful attitude, impartial to the emotional valence or stress associated with the thoughts, the tasks, that list. It' just a list. It's been made explicit whereas before it was all implicit, a turbulent vortex inside that was having a influence on you without you being able to pinpoint what it was! So become aware of the sources of your 'pain' then become mindful, dissociated from them. Observe. This is, if you like, externalised mindfulness!
The next step is to allow that 'soft' mindset to absorb the information, the stimulus. This will allow the brain to engage it's organisational capacity and start to tackle the overall task of deciding how to 'solve' this problem. It is beginning to strategise based on it's normal tendency to constantly strive to make sense of the world, to solve problems, to 'make it's life easy'.
You can give it a helping hand with a little introspection. Interception in fact. This is where you become aware of (mindfully) how you feel about all the tasks as a whole before drilling down into each individual component. This is called global processing, taking an overview of things rather than a narrowed focus. Imagine google earth showing your house, or even the room in which you sit. Now zoom out, pull back, out of that room, above your house, above your street, above the surrounding area. Don't go too far or you will be out on a flight of fancy above the earth and into the cosmos! See the 'problems' in a wider context, interlinked, part of a 'whole'. What is the overall purpose you are trying to achieve? Keep it more localised to 'today', though in due course we can apply this to life more generally, and ambition. For now we need to establish the technique and approach, still maintaining some discipline, structure and routine to how you going about instilling this performance mindset!
Scan the list, observe how you feel in terms of the level of arousal, or energy activated within you - simply in terms of voltage rather than emotion. Next think about how that energy s channelled. Is it a positive voltage, an excitement? Or is it a negative voltage - anxiety provoking? Don't think too much on this as the technique here is to 'decide' which 'direction that voltage is actually channelling. Our perception and action systems are inextricably linked. There is an illusion that demonstrates this - a circle of dots which appear to move clockwise or anti-clockwise depending on whether you circle your finger in either of these directions. The point is we have agency over what we perceive according to our 'action state'. Action creates perception. A high arousal state can be 'determined' as being 'exciting' rather than 'anxious' in the same way. We want to use that energy as impetus to move towards a stimulus rather than away from it. This as opposed to our direction of movement being determined by a reflexive response to the environment that perhaps moves us away from the source of 'shock' as opposed to using that shock to give us the energy to jump wholeheartedly forward!
So starting with mindfulness followed by interoception we can start to view the overwhelming list of tasks firstly dispassionately, then as motivating - galvanising the energy we have in store to start getting stuck in!
Next we need to drill down into our list and decide what to do first.
Perhaps already from the 'overview' stage we have a sense of what stands out. What is crying out to be done (i.e. most energy-provoking), and what blurs back into the background. With a little extra 'helping hand', still in a dispassionate, mindful, but somewhat interoceptive mode, scanning the list, let the individual components form a 3D 'contour' if you like, some emerging taller, more prominently from the rest. Perhaps your mind is deciding what is most immediately appealing, but this may not necessarily be the most 'important' or productive task to tackle. So you can zoom out again and 'decide' what is the key criterion to satisfy today? If it is 'productivity' then establish that mindfully in your strategy, the go back into the scanning mode - what emerges will be determined by this criterion. You have to take charge at this 'executive' level otherwise no decision will be made at all. Is it then about 'productivity'? or is it about what will make you feel stimulated?
Try this approach.
Now get stuck in!
Here is where I synthesise my Adventure Psychology approach based on my extensive adventure travel and pursuits experiences, more than two decades of applied psychological research, and my association and work with extreme sports practitioners. My philosophy can be boiled down to a simple premise (as elaborated on in Science section): a 'task-focused' mindset is key to achieve success! What gets in the way of this is 'self' Through a deep understanding of how the brain 'works' it is possible to refocus attention, use 'self-control' and engage with the world in a more efficient manner to achieve goals. I offer insights and techniques backed up with cutting edge science and practical knowledge, studying optimal performers to ensure insights are based on real evidence!