Falling Down The Habits Hole

I was recently texting with a friend about productivity and work. She brought up the fact that she’s avoiding telling herself the “I’m so overwhelmed” story. There is too much to do, so let’s not do anything at all. “I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t know where to begin.” How many times have I found myself stuck in that particular little trap? Too many.

Well, as luck would have it, productivity is my latest obsession and, more specifically, habits. Healthy habits, preferably. So with the new year, and a new recommendation from another friend, I’ve been reading “Better Than Before,” by Gretchen Rubin. A self-help book that explores and explains the surprisingly many aspects of habit formation and habit maintenance. More on that at a later date.

This preoccupation with habits and productivity has led me and the Brit to look at tons of apps that can be used in our pursuit of productivity. We watched classes online, we explored websites, we downloaded things, we learned new ways of making lists. We even learned new ways to cross things off of a list. I know I’m an upholder, the Brit is a questioner. I also know I’m an Abstainer. I’ve quit coffee completely cold Turkey!

There is so much information, so many websites and apps, so many quizzes and books and things to learn, so many places to turn your attention, that all of our effort was summed up thusly by the Brit:

“I am spending too much time thinking about OmniFOCUS versus Todoist and not Todoing anything due to lack of any OmniFOCUS”

Ah, yes. Our habit learning might be a distraction. Are we actually applying what we learned? Yes. Some of it will undoubtedly stick and turn into what I was pursuing, but we have laughed and laughed about how much time we are devoting to discovering productivity habits. I intend to use my newfound knowledge, but mostly this has led us to A.A. Milne, and a deeper appreciation of his wonderful poem, “The Old Sailor.” Who can relate?

THE OLD SAILOR

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

He was shipwrecked, and lived on an island for weeks,
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he’d look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

So he thought of his hut … and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) …
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved –
He did nothing but basking until he was saved.

–A.A. Milne

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