Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sprint or Marathon?

As all of you now know, I fortunately learned how to delegate in the nick of time. The house cleanup/salvaging operation is still in full force with my astonishing grad student army winning heroic battles hourly against the forces of horrendous hoarding. But now I need to learn how to be involved with such a massive and ongoing and urgent project without letting it overwhelm me and swamp everything else in my life.

Right now I am overwhelmed. Right now I am swamped. I wake up in the morning nice and early, but I have no motivation to do any other work when this house project awaits me. All I do is twiddle my thumbs until it's time for me to go greet my crew and launch into another day of progress, progress, progress. And then I stagger home after hours of toil drained and exhausted: so much done, yes, but so much left to do! I go to bed and lie awake thinking of what tasks to tackle on the morrow. I dream about it. I wake up in the middle of the night, and it's there beside me in bed. I am a woman obsessed! So I need a new strategy.

Or maybe not. I think I have to decide if this is a sprint or a marathon. If it's a sprint, I might as well throw myself into it and give it my all. If it's a marathon, pacing is key, or else I won't even finish, I'll just be found lying beside the roadway in a blubbering heap. How does one tell which is which?

When I was caring for my mother last year, I knew that was a marathon: it was going to go on for a long time, for an indeterminately long time, and I still had to keep my job going and deal with other life obligations, as well as the self-care that allows a caregiver to keep on giving care. Writing a book is a marathon: you have to be able to go the distance, page after page after page.

An intensive visit from a house guest, like my fun with Kim last week, is a sprint: I told myself, all you have to do for these three days is have fun with Kim, and I did it. A short-term writing project under a tight deadline is a sprint: stay up late, get up early, just do it.

I'm thinking that my house project is a sprint right now. Once the house gets under control, the rest of the work readying it for sale can become a marathon. After all, I've only been at the task for three days. I'm starting to hope that in another three days, it may be under control enough that I can start prioritizing other tasks, like the academic paper that I have due June 15 and haven't yet started (another sprint in the works). I think I'm going to give myself permission to be overwhelmed by this house project until Monday. And then, well, then, I'm going to have to make some different choices about how I use my time.

But right now, I'm racing, racing, racing, as the crowd cheers....

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