Efficiency

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.

Stopwatch

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.

Select mindfully.

 

Myers-Briggs “P” or “J”

The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, aka, MBTI, is used broadly to help sort people by some of their traits.  Some regard the MBTI as gospel, and others as pop psychology or worse.  I personally don’t see it as the be-all and end-all, but have certainly found it useful over many years.

One of the continuums (sorry, Latin speakers) the MBTI measures is that between Judging and Perceiving.  For short these are called J and P.   The definition for our purposes is that people who are Js like to decide things, and people that are Ps like to leave options open.  (OK, now some MBTI humor:  If a person is a J, we refer to their “J-ness,” but if they’re a P we don’t refer to their …)

A “J” likes to gather whatever data they feel is absolutely needed, and then make a decision.  They like things to be settled and clear.  It can be downright difficult to let an issue continue as “open” without deciding on it ASAP.  For a J, making a decision is satisfying.  Meanwhile, a “P” gathers some data and that leads to more data to be gathered;  the decision is often put off as long as possible, sometimes past the deadline of interest.  For a P, making a decision can be agony.

This is a continuum, though.  While some people are all the way at one end of the span, others lie elsewhere along the line.  Some are right in the middle, and can make decisions easily enough, but can also leave things open easily enough.  You get the idea.

If you’re a Myers-Briggs P, you might find the transition to a Tapas Life to be very natural.  You roll along, opportunities appear, and you grab those that suit you when they suit you.  Your life can be very emergent.  In contrast to one’s long career, which often demands that decisions be made, the Tapas Life may feel liberating to a P.  Of course, as in all Tapas Life recipes, you can add as much or as little structure as you wish, so not everything need be wide open.

If you’re a Myers-Briggs J, you might find the transition to a Tapas Life to be more of a challenge.  In your long career, you might’ve found the structure that that world provides comfortable.  You’re perhaps used to goals and making decisions about how to achieve them.  You’re probably accustomed to deadlines and making decisions on how to meet them.  Most importantly, the issue of how to spend the bulk of your waking hours has been settled for decades by the rigors of your long career.  You may find the sudden arrival of the blank calendar that can come with the completion of your long career to be very daunting indeed.

To me, a classic example is that of a medical doctor.  Here’s a person who’s had a huge portion of their time scheduled over the past 30+ years.  All that time, they’ve been making decisions.  Their long career’s attributes have prescribed (sorry, non-punners) what their days have looked like.  If they retire from their long career one day, they suddenly entire uncharted waters where nothing is settled.  Of course, by and by they can get on with gathering data and making decisions about what they want their lives to look like and wind up very fulfilled and satisfied.  I’m merely noting the challenging nature of their transition — it’s a pretty major change!

Other Js may or may not have a similarly disorienting transition ahead of them, but they are likely to experience the arrival of a blank calendar as more of a hurdle than a P.

One other heads-up to Js:  you might experience life after your long career to be a lot less efficient.  But this is a topic for another post entirely.

I’m not a psychologist, pop or otherwise.  If you disagree with my two bits about MBTI Js and Ps, please chime in with your thoughts or experiences.

Meanwhile, whether you’re a P or a J, a Tapas Life can be assembled by anyone who wants one!

 

p.s.:  Full disclosure — I’m a J, and can act like a P with some effort when I need to…

 

Transition

In earlier posts, I’ve talked about modifying one’s way of being that worked well during one’s long career (Competitiveness) and I’ve talked about finding a meaningful Tapa (Meaningful Tapa Emerges).  What we really have here, on a fuller scale, is an ending and a beginning.

It’s worth taking good note of this fact, since we’re often not so good at endings, and that can make finding new beginnings harder.

In his book, Transitions:  Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges writes about the process of ending something and starting something else.  When something important ends, for our purposes one’s long career, Bridges points out that denial, shock, anger, frustration/stress, and ambivalence are likely to ensue.  After all, one has just ended a fairly consuming activity that ran for perhaps 30-40 years!  And one might just have a scary amount of their identity tied up in the long career that was.  In a sense, this is almost like death — although fortunately just the death of a part of our lives, viewed from a useful perspective.  It’s far from game over.  So the ending needs to be celebrated, observed, felt, explored, inhabited, honored, mourned, and in other ways processed fully:  the retirement party will simply not suffice.  So talk about it, write your thoughts and feelings, paint about it, get drunk and cry about it, share your pain and confusion (or joy and delight, or all of the above) with others early and often.  Have a ceremony and bury your company ID card.  Do what it takes to move through the steps that Bridges lists above.

And this will help you arrive at what he calls The Neutral Zone.  Now you’re not in your long career anymore, but neither have you got a complete new life assembled.  This can be a place that feels unglued, where decades of attachment and structure no longer exist, a place of untetheredness.  And it can be a place where emerging freedom and possibility can be experienced.  One must live in the Neutral Zone for enough time to have new beginnings start to poke their nose out into the open.  How long?  Who knows.  I’ve blogged about it taking me 18 months after leaving my long career before I took on the new opportunity of piano lessons.  This must be different for everybody.  And yet, the Neutral Zone must be traversed, for if one doesn’t allow their Ending to be processed and a time of gathering and regrouping to take place, the possibility of a sustainable new Beginning is diminished.

As new beginnings start to form up in our mind, Bridges continues, we meet them with skepticism:  “I’ll never be any good at that.”  “They’ll never want me.”  “It’ll never work.”  Etc., etc., etc.  This may defeat and relegate to the junkyard a number of potential paths or Tapas, or merely delay them to another time.  Eventually something will emerge that you can accept as within your imaginable grasp/reach/energy.  And you’ll be able to ascribe some importance to it without becoming too fearful of it being unobtainable.  This will lead to hope and then enthusiasm and then you’ll be off and running with a new career, if that’s where you’re headed, or with a Tapa to start or add to your collection.  And you will have run the course of Bridges’ Transition model.

Quite a process, eh?  If you’re mindful of it, that will help you travel the path a bit more easily, and perhaps with more awareness of what’s going on.  He notes that Change is Fast (your long career slammed shut one Friday afternoon) and Transition is Slow (takes a while to work through the Ending, dwell in the Neutral Zone, and gradually gather energy to embark on a New Beginning).

Another key takeaway at this juncture is that the first half of your adult life (and even your childhood/adolescence before that) is taken up with proving your competence here on Planet Earth.  The second half, the half after your long career, is taken up with finding meaning in your journey from dust to dust.  Thus my reference to the Competitiveness and Meaningful Tapa Emerges posts.

Safe travels on your journey!