I Am Not Productive
Updated: Feb 16, 2019
I am not productive, and I know why. I can't blame my environment, it's all in my head.
I am not productive. Well, I am not as productive as I would like to be. The good news? I know why I am not productive. The bad news? I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it without going on medication. Even then, I’m not sure that will actually improve anything.
My problem? I have too many ideas. More accurately, I have too many ideas all at once. I sit down to work on my freelance project due in 24 hours and suddenly I am hit with the inspiration to start/modify my blog. Sure, this idea came to me primarily because I am ghostwriting a how-to book about blogging, but this wasn’t a new idea. I had the same idea about three years ago. Look how that turned out. (Hint: It really didn’t. I wrote a few posts and then got distracted by another idea. And another… and another… and here we are a year later since my last post.) I tried to do the responsible “good, functioning adult thing” and wrote the idea down in my business ideas notebook (it is rainbow and very eye-catching. I should use it more…) before returning to my currently paying project.
Yay, I properly adulted and utilized task management. Wrong. I go back to my project but all these ideas start hitting me like a hailstorm. I try to take cover in my research, but the pelting ideas won’t let up. It’s useless and my brain will not get back on track no matter how hard I try. There is no cover from this storm. The only way to get through it is to follow through on one of the ideas and allow it to control me until the storm has passed.
Alright, I tell myself, this will only take a few minutes. I’ll just write the damn thing and be done with it! Then back to work I go. Seems reasonable enough, so grab hold of one of the frozen ideas that had been hurled at me and open up a blank document. This is going to be great! It will be witty and funny and people will laugh and cry. I start typing… and it is gibberish. The idea I hold starts to melt in my hand and there is no golden center. There’s nothing at all. It’s gone.
Well, that’s done, right? Wrong! The residue of a forgotten idea lingers on my skin and I can’t get it out. Out damned spot! What do I do? My brain still won’t redirect to Responsible Adult Mode. I have to produce something. I write down more ideas in my notebook—plans, notes, to-do lists. If I get it out, then it won’t bother me anymore. Right?
Welcome to my brain. Did that work? No. No it didn’t. That’s why I’m writing this instead of the how-to book that is due in 24 hours. That’s why I’m writing this instead of formatting that project for my client. That’s why I’m writing this instead of adding more to my novel so that I can resubmit it to an agent. That’s why I’m writing this instead of soaking my tortoises in large bowls filled with water to ensure they are drinking enough.
This is why I get nothing done.
Too many ideas pelt me at once and not all of them are tangible. Not all of them are golden, and some of them melt as soon as I grab them resulting in nothing but wasted time. No matter how hard I try to prioritize and focus, I can’t. The ideas devour me and become white noise so loud that I can hardly see, let alone think. That may not make sense, but if your brain is like my brain then you know exactly what I mean. I stare blankly at my computer or look around aimlessly until the deafening white noise of unsolicited thoughts lets up and I can start to process them individually.
This is why I am not productive.
This is why it can take me days to do something seemingly simple. This is why I am hyper organized and invest far too much money in planners, whiteboard calendars, and folders. This is why I have dozens of notepads and half-filled notebooks. This is why I write EVERYTHING down. If I don’t, it will melt and it will take me three years for that particular idea hailstone to pelt me again. This is why sticky notes are my best friends. I need to see the things in order for them not to be drowned out by the white noise of constant ideas.
This is why it’s been four years since my first novel and the only thing I’ve been able to produce since then have been short stories. I have so many novels in progress it’s silly. I jump from one to the other and then get a great idea and start a new one, too. I have notebooks filled with outlines and half-developed notions. I have an entire library of unwritten stories stored in my brain. Sometimes, my mind will check one of them out without my consent and it will randomly play out in my brain—giving me more ideas to write down regardless of where I am, what I’m doing, and what conversation I may be in the middle of at that time.
Dirty secret: I’ve missed a lot of vital and interesting information because of this constant hailstorm that will rain down upon me at any given moment without reason or notice.
If it seems like I am attentively listening to our conversation or lecture or movie, I promise I am trying really hard to do exactly that but I don’t always succeed. In all honesty, I’ve missed about 1/3 of whatever it is whether it’s an engaging conversation that I actually am interested in, a conversation that I could take or leave, an important and crucial lecture, a presentation I am in the middle of giving, directions to a location, or a movie I’ve been dying to see for months. One of those hailstones will hit me and my mind will drift off. I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to disengage and scold my brain, bringing myself back to the present moment but I’ve totally missed whatever information was just given. I’ve also gotten pretty good at being able to pick up key words that managed to infiltrate my mind during the idea storm and can repeat those back in some sort of coherent thought, but I still drifted.
What you don’t know, is that while even writing this (which has totally taken more than ten minutes) I have gotten up to water the turtles, I have debated making another cup of tea but decaf because I’ve already had two regular cups, I have processed that the next thing I need to do is to redesign my WordPress blog but do it in a way that doesn’t compromise the 2 fantastic people who have already subscribed, and I have reminded myself that I can’t do that until I finish my freelance project that is due in 24 hours not only because deadline, but because the project itself will instruct me on how to successfully do that. And, oh yeah, I still haven’t seen that new Spider-Man movie, and no I don’t think that comment will date this post because 1) it’s already dated when you post it, and 2) let’s face it, there will always be a new Spider-Man movie until the end of time or the movie industry is destroyed in an apocalyptic wasteland—even then, I’m sure there will be some mutated humanoid acting out Uncle Ben’s death scene for the 1,000th time.
This is why I waste so much time watching pointless shows on Netflix or Hulu. No, even those I am not up-to-date on because I get distracted from my list and recommended shows by obscure things I find traipsing around on IMBD while kind of watching the show that’s playing. Yes, even then I’m missing information because I can’t focus and am reading articles, actor biographies, and watching videos on social media.
The truth is, I am so exhausted by my own brain that not only can I not get anything done, but the sheer process of trying is so overwhelming that I just need to lay down. Even then, it doesn’t stop. It never stops.
Sleeping isn’t a reprieve, either. I dream and then I dream weird things that, guess what, could make awesome books. So I wake up and write the ideas down so that maybe I can flesh them out later. Or, if I don’t have a notebook or am not awake enough to actually write, I replay it over and over in my mind so that I won’t forget it. Sometimes that works, sometimes I just keep myself awake for four hours and forget it anyway. Then I’m still tired when I wake up and am in even less condition to fight off the barrage of ideas and the process repeats.
Oh yeah, I forgot my turtles are soaking while writing this. I need to check on them. Update: they’re fine. I refreshed their water, washed my hands, and made that third cup of tea.
This is why I am not productive. Or at least, not as productive as I’d like to be.
My solution? Go with it the best that I can and try to add more hours in the day so that I can get everything done while indulging my idea storm. That friend who called me four weeks ago? I promise I will eventually get back to you and it won’t be at four AM when I remember that you called and I need to do that.
I forgot my tea on the counter. It’s probably cold now.
I also forgot to eat today so I am lightheaded.
Welcome to my brain.
(Yes, I did complete my project and submit it on time for the deadline, in case you were wondering.)