Welcome to my new productivity series: Just One Thing.
Each Tuesday, I will share just one thing that you can do to move your work forward.
The thing I want to talk to you today about is rewriting stories. In particular, the stories we tell about our work.
We have stories for just about everything in our lives. Who we are. Where we belong. But we really love to make them up about our work. We say that it’s not good enough, that it’ll never get done, that we’re not as fast as everybody else, that we’re not as informed as everybody else, that we are — you name it. We write seriously unpleasant stories.
Here’s the thing about stories. They’re not true. And the awesome part about being made up is that you can rewrite them to support you, instead of defeat you. In other words, if you want to make up a story, let’s make up one that’s on your side.
So, the Just One Thing to do today is to begin to pay attention when you sit down to work. Notice the stories in your head. That’s all you’re trying to do. Notice, and then write them down.
(Side note: If you start writing them down, and they make you feel even worse, then stop doing it.)
A couple of the things I have learned from most people when they write them down: First of all, they’re truly surprised with how much negative self talk that they’re engaging in. Secondly, they are shocked at how successful they have been at fighting their way through the thicket to get their work done.
Think of writing down the thoughts as off gassing them. Create an off gas book. Not so you can go back and revisit them. But so you can say, “Oh, wow, that really wasn’t helpful. What’s another story that I can tell? What’s something that I can say that’s on my side?”
So for example: Off gas: “It’s never going to get finished.”
Rewrite: “It certainly won’t unless I keep writing. So I’m going to keep writing to see when it gets finished.”
Off gas: “People aren’t going to like it.”
Rewrite: “Oh, that’s true. Somebody won’t like, but I’m not looking for 100% approval, I’m looking to get this done and get them out there in the world.”
Off gas: “I haven’t read enough.”
Rewrite: “There’s no way to read enough because I don’t have enough time in the world to read everything that might ever existed in my field. But if certainly read enough that I have some thoughts I can get started. Right?”
So that’s your Just One Thing for today: Stories.
Look at your stories. Attend to your stories. Rewrite your stories. Awareness to action. Soon the barriers to entry, the thicket, that spiky place, disappear.