Here’s something I’d never really noticed very explicitly before: I have a lot of little tasks or to-dos that accumulate and for which I often have no energy or interest. And then, once in a while, I have a sudden need to get started on one. And then I’m imbued with a powerful drive to keep doing, to clear the next task, to prosecute the stack of things needing attention on my desk, to water the flowerpots, and on and on.
Something has switched on in me and it feels as though I have superpowers. And this may go on for half a day or up to several days. I’m incredibly efficient, plowing through an accumulation of things that have needed attention and action. Who knows what causes this, yet when it’s present, it’s presence is obvious and undeniable.
Most days when I’m not in this “charging up the middle” mode, I do have to complete certain items, of course. These include basics like showering and getting dressed. And also electives, like riding my bike to shop for groceries and making dinner (instead of punting and just driving the car to a restaurant). And also mandatories, like paying the bills on time. But there are also myriad items that aren’t time-sensitive (or which are time-sensitive but which won’t cause too much of an issue if they’re late) that can simply be allowed to sit and wait — sometimes for a looooong time… Numbering among these is almost always a pile of papers on my desk; they’d be easy to stay on top of if I just did a bit every day, handling everything only once, immediately, as some efficiency experts recommend. Somehow, though, this ain’t happening. So the pile grows, waiting for my superpowers to appear anew.
I note that during my long career, I was ridiculously efficient. At first, when I was single, I was in the “proving competence” phase of my life, and so I drove myself hard to do a mountain of work every single day, in order to get ahead, make a buck, be able to find a wife, buy a house, get a nice car. Then I was married and had kids, and received the greater responsibility I’d sought at work, all at the same time. This very simply demanded the height of efficiency from early every morning to late every night — for 15+ years! I perceived there to be no choice at work, where the amount that needed doing was prodigious. And there was always sooooo much to do at home with kids/family that there weren’t a lot of idle moments. Throw in what at that time was around a week/month of travel and you get a further compression of the non-travel time, with the attendant pressure on greater efficiency. Whew. Glad to have both navigated and enjoyed those times.
This discussion about what efficiency was like at an earlier phase of my life and what it’s like now is meant to highlight yet another way in which life after one’s long career is indeed different. Being mindful of this change and others I’ve written about in this blog helps with the transition that ensues after one’s long career has been completed.
And being mindful is always a good reminder. I’m sheepishly surprised that I only just became truly mindful of this quite significant change in my efficiency. This new mindfulness will give me a better shot at being of choice in how efficiently or inefficiently I do myself at any given moment.
This is also a good example of my observation that after one’s long career, one can focus a bit more on how one is being, and not just what one is doing. With decades of life experience and quite a bit of perspective to draw on, there are many elements available in how one chooses to be.