I hate the reality of personal domino theory. I do, even though I know most of you have no idea what I’m talking about. Psychologists have much more complicated words to describe the universe “overwhelming someone”, feeling you don’t know where to start, etc., and at first blush, someone could mistake that experience / emotion for the same as mine. But it’s not. No, my problem is not a feeling of helplessness, it’s a lack of motivation or lack of connection between goal and the means to achieve something. Confused yet? Let me explain.
I want to set up my new home gym, a Bowflex unit I bought back in December. My original intent was to have it up and running by the new year, and then February, March, May, June. And yet it is still in a box. I’ve achieved other goals, but not this one, so since I’m one to delve into motivations, why not this one? Is it fear of the project? Nope, although the explanations and reviews online suggest it is not 100% straightforward. Is it lack of desire? Nope, I want to use it. If it was set up, I’d use it today. So not the project and not the use, what then? The steps to get there.
Here’s my personal domino world:
- In order to use the gym system, I have to have it fully set up and usable;
- To set it up, I’m going to need some help (likely from Andrea, maybe someone like a friend Paul who is good with tools and things, including instructions, and potentially bribe-able with good Thai food, conversation and board games);
- I also need space cleared to put it when it’s together, and therein lies the start of the rub, as I’ve got my eye on the corner of the basement;
- To get that space cleared, I need to move two coffee tables over and decide what to do with Jacob’s toy train stuff and whether we’re going to convert it to a Lego table or get rid of the tables;
- I need to move a regular table to the centre of the room;
- I need to move a couch and a chair, to new arrangements in the room;
- I need to move the TV from one wall to another, including adjusting all the electronics in the unit to potentially ditch a Wii that might be malfunctioning, decide if I’m keeping a Playstation 1 and/or a N64, decide if I’m keeping the console stereo system in the unit or giving it away to my brother or father-in-law, and move a setup for an VCR so that my laptop can still reach it and allow me to rip a diving video that sits in VHS-land;
- I need to reorganize three small shelving units which have a lot of “extra” stuff on it in front of DVDs, and potentially sort through some DVDs we no longer need;
- I need to make enough room in front of the new TV setup to do yoga, and set up my laptop to play videos for working out;
- I need to reposition a really heavy recumbent bicycle, and assemble the pieces that I disassembled six years ago when we moved, get it up and running, and within view of the TV so Andrea can watch TV while using it too;
- And before all of that happens, take about 30 boxes of stuff that were moved out of my back storage area and now sort them into 2 or 3 piles so I know what I’m keeping, what I’m throwing out, and what we’re selling to clean that area up too, and then put it where it needs to go so I have some space to move.
There’s about another 8 small steps in there too, but you get the picture. I’m even leaving out the fact that there is a giant hole in my drop ceiling that they did to get the AC line clear. Regardless of how I sub-divide it, it’s a project and a half, at least.
But the only part I really care about is #1, which requires #2 and #3, they kind of go together. Maybe #4 too. So they’re connected to the main goal which is to get the gym going.
So, as I said, with depression hitting, I could go for the simple psych explanation that it is depression causing me to feel “overwhelmed”, but that’s not it. I don’t feel overwhelmed by the steps. I feel completely unmotivated because most of them I don’t care about. A bunch of the furniture moving is ONLY to make space, it doesn’t change anything on its own, I like the current config. It’s why it is IN the current config. It works for me. The extra stuff? Some of it is fine to have in boxes, and I sporadically use some of it, but not enough to retain it. I want to purge, but it’s not urgent. Steps 6-11 have no real motivation behind them, they’re transitory domino issues. I need them to fall to make room for the domino I really care about.
The domino problem happens regularly for me, and it is a great source of frustration. I frequently feel like I want to do X, but I can’t until I do A-W first. To do things “right” rather than “good enough” for today. I don’t want to push a bunch of stuff out of the way to get to a box at the back of a closet, I want to solve the first problems that are in the way. Yet none of them are urgent, and they sit there.
Classic “to do” list management would say, “No problem, write it down into digestible chunks and do one a day until you’re done.” Or set aside a time to do a big PUSH and see how far you get, knowing of course that what seems insurmountable often seems manageable once you get into it, it is the “starting” that needs to be overcome. Yet neither technique is really a problem nor the solution to the problem.
The main problem is committing to the first domino. I don’t care about it. I don’t want to care about it. There are 100 things I would rather be doing on my to do list than play with that domino. In terms of priority, alone that domino would be somewhere near the bottom of a long list right after alphabetizing my sock drawer. But if the first domino doesn’t fall, I can’t get to the 12th or 15th or 100th in that chain.
So July’s first FTU burst of “energy” allocation is to the domino problem in my basement. I’m going to do 30 minutes worth of work on it. When I’m done, I’m stopping for the day. Even if I’m in the groove or making progress, as in that vein likes the seeds of future disconnection when it wears off, I’m going to stop after 30 minutes. I’m not committing to a domino I don’t care about, I am committing to a 30-minute time investment in my final domino. Or as my kinesiologist suggested in a different sense, I can count setting up my home gym as my first “work-out” and exercise in and of itself.
Let’s see how my progress goes for the month.