How it gets done.

May 31, 2020 § 5 Comments

This post has been sitting in draft form for months. It is a relic of the “normal” we lived prior to Covid-19.

In some ways, we have achieved the heightened awareness the post suggests, something we often only gave lip service to before the pandemic.

“Getting it done” often begins with a list:

Bathe the dog, pickup a dozen eggs, lose thirty pounds, finish reading the book started last summer, bake bread, call my sister, write that memoir….

The “how” of “getting it done” will fall somewhere between the following two choices:

1.You juggle. Everything on the list will get done incrementally. A little here, a little there. You move fast and leave each project with an I.O.U. and an apologetic, “Hey, I’ll be back,” and hope no task hits the ground before you can catch it again.

Upside? If you’re good at juggling there is rarely a big mess to clean up, and you don’t disappoint anyone–at least not completely.

Downside? Completion of each task comes with, at best, a moment of relief before you rush on to one of the other projects keening for your attention.

2. The single-project strategy: I will sit in this chair until I write ‘The End’ on this damned memoir! All other projects can pout, twiddle their thumbs, even wither and die because, for me, there is no other project.

Upside? The payoff is huge. You’ve slain the dragon! This calls for a ticker tape parade! A new national holiday!

Downside? You look up, and all your other projects are sickly and wilted, and those who have a stake in those other projects, or simply wanted a decent conversation, are good and ticked off. Still, for some there is only one project and it is worth living for, maybe even dying for: martyrs and saints, writers and artists, scientists and dictators—the rest of us have spouses, bosses, friends, and lists that natter at us too loudly to be ignored.

But neither strategy solves the underlying problem.

Time.

Time is the get-it-done problem that can never be solved. Time, a river that flows without end, is infinite. We, the list makers, are not. We, ourselves, are items on a list of a higher order and we will, one day, be crossed off.

As finite beings we have limited time to get anything done. Perhaps we should expend a little of that limited commodity to question the whir that keeps us in constant motion. Perhaps we should sometimes set it all down and do…nothing.

This idea can cause panic. Americans are a get-it-done people. Whether in increments or in one long march, we define ourselves by what we accomplish. The busy person seems far more important than the guy sitting on a bench enjoying the warmth of sunlight on his face.

Still, let’s entertain this idea as a third strategy.

3. Don’t get-it-done. Don’t do anything at all. Just be.

Sit still and feel the sun on your face and call it only, the moment.

You won’t vanish. You won’t depreciate in value. And you won’t sit quiet for long before you are, once again, doing.

But sometimes…sometimes…it is better to be the rock in the river, the rock that simply is, as the river rushes by.

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