Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Finding your Flow

Today is the start of the school year, which means my whole day changes.  In some ways, I have more structure when my son is in school, as I get up earlier and go to bed earlier.  But in other ways I have more freedom, as I can do things during the day whenever I want, without worrying about what other people are doing.

I definitely think that freedom is a two edged sword.  Having lots of time means that I am always tempted to do things that I enjoy first...and then get sucked into them and never get around to the stuff I actually need to do.  The more structure I can build myself, the better my days tend to go, and the more I get done.

One thing that is always very evident, especially when I first get back on a more regular schedule is that I am very productive in the mornings.  I can get a lot done before lunch, and during the summer, when I often stay up late and sleep in, I get so much less done, because I'm just in a different mental state late at night.

I am a night person, in that I love nights and feel more comfortable at night.  But while I am awake and alert at night, it is a different kind of awareness.  For productive things, I am often better off settling in and getting them done early in the day.  It is a strange thing, because I am SO not a morning person!

And this is one of those things where the phrase 'know thyself' becomes very important.  I can ignore the fact that I am productive in the morning and try to push myself to work at night, where I am more comfortable.  But even though I may not enjoy getting up and doing things in the morning, I accomplish so much, and it leaves my evenings free for me to do the fun stuff (that I do very well in the night time). 

I read an article a while back on ebb and flow in regards to personal energy.  It really stuck with me.  I think we all have our own personal cycles, whether we are women or men, at all phases in our lives.  We also often just have 'good' or 'bad' days.  Some days, I am very ON, and it feels like everything is easy and I can just get a ton done.  Other days, it's like pulling teeth to even get basic stuff done (like cooking myself lunch).

It is tempting, even on days where I am on a roll, just to play around and do things on my 'want' list instead of my 'need' list.  Especially if I have had a string of days where I was just not feeling up to doing a lot.  Those down days drag on, and make you feel like nothing is much fun.  When I feel more energetic, I want to do fun things!

But I know that I also have things that I do on a regular basis that are so much easier when I work on them when I'm in a flow state.  And sometimes I may not have that many great days, so I really need to capitalize on them.

It is hard sometimes, to push yourself to work when all you want to do is enjoy the day.  This is one place where my thinking mind really helps me.  If I put of my work, and play, there is always that voice in the back of my head, nagging me and giving me guilt for not doing the work I should be doing.  At the end of the day, when I look back over what I have done, I feel less happy if I didn't get productive stuff done when I could have.

If, on the other hand, I get my work done, I feel so much better.  And then, on days where I just don't feel like I can do things, I don't feel guilty about not working, because I know that trying to push through those hard days often leaves me more worn out (and doesn't lead to actually getting much done...I may fiddle about and pretend to work for hours, but actually end up just avoiding doing work).

Part of knowing yourself and your rhythms is knowing how often you have good days and bad days.  If you know about what you need to get done, you can decide how much absolutely needs to get done on any given day.  I always have a timeline in the back of my head, with the things I have going on, when they need to be finished by, and how much I feel I can do on both a good and bad day.

Having worked on writing regularly for several years now, and having done many years of NaNo (which is such an intense writing project, it really pushes my limits and helps me grow as a writer), I definitely know how much I can do when push comes to shove.  Even when I don't 'feel' like writing, I can often get some things done.  I may do more research or background building, just jotting down notes to myself for when I am ready to actually write what I need to write.

It can definitely be hard, to use your good days and productive times, to do things that may not be the most fun, but need to get done.  Sometimes, I think it's more a matter of reminding myself that things will be so much harder if I put them off until I am right up on a deadline.  I know that I can push through and force myself to finish, but that I will also probably be a little miserable doing it.  If I can remember this, when I'm feeling good and productive, it can help entice me to buckle down and work when the working is easy.

No matter how much I want to do something, there are always bits of the work that are more tedious.  I love to write, I really do.  But some times it feels like never ending work!  There is always more to work on, another project to get written, and works that I want to edit and finish up (which are definitely piling up!) 

There are a lot of spiritual books that suggest doing certain practices at specific times of the day.  And while I do think that there is often a reason for the times they suggest, I also think that if those times don't work for you personally, it can be detrimental to try to force yourself to do them as suggested.  You may feel frustrated and never really pick up on the practice, because it just was the wrong time.

As much as I love night time, doing things (like journaling) right before bed just doesn't work for me.  And doing it right when I wake up doesn't work either...I'm definitely not enough of a morning person to roll out of bed and be able to come up with anything coherent right away.  But after a little time, to eat and drink some coffee and wake up, then I find I am in a good place for thoughtfulness.

It can be hard not to get frustrated, especially if you tend to have more hard days than easy ones.  But it is never hopeless!  Start keeping track of not just how you feel, but how different activities flow throughout your days.  You may find that there are times where you are much more capable at deep mental tasks while other times are more suited for more physical things that don't require much thinking.  By paying attention and learning to match the things you need (or want!) to do with how you feel and what kind of energy you have, you will be able to accomplish so much more, with ease!

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