Simplifying the Work

Last week was an overwhelming one. The carpool I had shared with a friend had just ended when he took a new position at work, so I was back to travelling to my job by Caltrain. I hadn’t expected it to be a big adjustment, but it turns out it was. The fact that the trains were late going home for the first three days certainly didn’t help.

Work is beginning to pick up towards the holidays as well. I work in an industry where holiday communications are very important for our customers, so anything that goes wrong is expected to be handled with a bit more urgency than usual. As “air-traffic control” for my support department, that means dealing with people who want results as soon as possible all day. It’s…challenging, to say the least. These two small changes were enough to tax my mental energy and willpower almost completely.

I went through a brief period last week berating myself for not being able to handle the changes that had come, but that really gets you nowhere. How you feel is how you feel, and talking down to yourself for emotions that arise makes it that much more difficult for you to deal with them. Now that I’ve had a reasonably relaxed weekend, I’m sitting here thinking about what I can do to better cope with the stresses that will be coming in the future and still remain productive.

The answer is to simplify. Do one thing at a time as best I can, move on to the next, take a break when I need to. That’s an easy thing to plan, but it’s very difficult to put into practice. We live in a world that wants us to multi-task as much as possible. Our attention is often being pulled in many different directions at once. Even when there’s an emergency, say, that demands our complete focus, there are a number of things queueing up right behind it.

Despite that I’ll be trying to focus on doing one thing at a time this week. Hopefully, this means I’ll be able to be a lot more efficient and productive than I have been before. I’ll put all of my attention into reading when that’s what I decide to do. When I write, I’ll work on one project through its completion before moving on to something else. When I’m working, I’ll devote a period of time to focusing on that, and plan my breaks so that I don’t burn out in the middle of the afternoon.

Right now I’m working on a short story that’s essentially supernatural erotica. It’s for a friend, so I’m not sure I’ll actually show it anywhere when it’s done, but my goal this week is to finish it. It had been requested for last Christmas, so this story is far, far overdue. But my perfectionism has gotten the better of me, and I’ve never been happy with the story that I’m writing. It’s time to simply be content with the way the story has come and work on improving it through other drafts.

I’m reading Mad Ship by Robin Hobb at the moment, and it’s quite good. Hobb’s able to bounce back and forth between multiple perspectives to create a complete world, and you end up sympathizing with or hating each person you come across. Even as the story deepens and the many characters’ purposes come into conflict with one another, you end up rooting for whoever you’re reading about. The villain of the first book in the series has this tremendous exchange with a rather meek boy in one scene, and it just knocked my socks off. This guy has done things that places him firmly in the antagonist column, but I find myself liking him an awful lot just the same.

At any rate, supernatural erotica and Mad Ship are what’s on my plate this week. What’s on yours?

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