NVC and Requests

At this point, I am very much in the habit of converting both my own and others’ statements to NVC. However, my increased focus on efficiency these days has made me realize that I tend to mostly ignore requests. I’m pretty consistent about expressing observations instead of evaluations, sharing my emotions, and tying them to underlying needs, but don’t usually go on to make clear requests, except for empathy. I do explicitly ask for that pretty often.

But lately I’ve had less time to do emotional processing and have extended conversations where Will empathizes with me. And I’ve found that I seem to be adapting by more quickly formulating specific requests. An example that jumps out at me from a few weeks ago was that I was getting upset when I had Lydia at night and Will would wake up just a little and suggest a course of action for me to take with her, such as taking her for a pottytunity. 

When I’m already stressed out and in a mad mood, I’m not the best at accepting well-meaning suggestions. I talked about that some, but I pretty quickly moved to asking whether Will would be willing to do whatever he was suggesting himself right away. Then, we ended up talking about whether that would work.

My recent experience has left me with a new appreciation for clear requests. I do think that leaving them out can be subtly coercive. Because if I’m not being clear about what I’m actually looking for, the message can be that I want the other person to figure out what I want and fix the problem so I feel better.

Parenthood and Procrastination

Having a newborn has been good for cutting through some of the thought patterns I tend to have that lead to procrastination. So, while I’m definitely getting less non-baby-related work done these days, I’ve also gotten more efficient at using the time I do have. Specifically, I’ve gotten considerably better at effectively using small blocks of time.

Here are some of the things I can’t really tell myself these days:

  • “I’ll wait until I have a block of time so I can really concentrate.” I may not get a big block of time that day. And when I do have a longer stretch because Lydia’s taking a long nap, I don’t usually know ahead of time. Sometimes I think I’ll have longer, maybe because she just ate and Will’s taking care of her, but I’m wrong because she needs to eat again.
  • “I’ll just read this article/email/book first.” It’s been pretty hard to type while nursing, but reading is easy enough, so it’s hard to justify using time where I actually have access to my hands to read. I have plenty of time for reading.
  • “I can just do it later.” This is the most fundamental thought, procrastinationwise. There’s a very good chance that later, Lydia will need to feed. Or, if she won’t, then I’ll want to eat myself, or take a shower, or do some laundry. I can’t pretend that time “later” is abundant.

And I think that’s the key thing. Time to work on the things I care about actually does feel scarce now, in a way that it never has before, which has its upsides. I get excited about having time to work on the things I care about and I want to use it efficiently. I also feel much more motivated to figure out what’s actually of greatest importance and start with that, since I know I’m not going to get through everything on my list.

Of course, sometimes I end up deciding to sleep, because I’m tired, or play (these days it’s usually Skyrim), because I want to recharge. But more often than not, those decisions feel like conscious choices that I’ve made for good reason.

As a bonus, it seems like I’ve managed to carry over some of the mindset I internalized during labor about taking things I’m worried about minute by minute, and not dreading the future. That helps too.

Why we procrastinate the most when we’re working on the right thing

I’ve had trouble focusing today. A lot of the right things were in place: I had a short list of the most important things to do today, my schedule was almost completely clear, I was in my favorite work space with a good friend there to co-work, and I’d gotten lots of sleep.

Usually, these elements are a reliable formula for a productive day–so what happened???

As I noticed myself starting to beat myself up for not having accomplished more today and lamenting the wasted opportunity, I realized: I think I do know what happened.

Today, I was having trouble focusing because I was working on exactly the right thing, and for most of us, certainly including me–it’s when I can actually see the connection between what I’m working on and a picture in my head of getting something I care about, I balk a little.

It threatens my self-concept–not sure exactly how–but, to paraphrase some advice I’ve heard recently, who I am right now can handle exactly amount of success that I have in my life.

So, when I get working on something that goes beyond that, my self-concept is threatened and I get a chorus of voices saying:

“But this isn’t exactly the right thing!”

“This doesn’t feel right.”

“I don’t know what to do next”

And then there’s this kind of mental blankness, and the next thing I know, I’m clicking on the Facebook button in my bookmark bar.

(Okay, that exact problem will never happen again. Because just after I wrote that previous sentence I removed the Facebook button from my bookmark bar.)

I didn’t usually stay distracted for long, since I’ve gotten pretty good at pulling myself back, but even so, the total amount of time spent staring at what I was doing instead of making forward progress was a lot higher than I’d like.

Anyway, increased awareness about what was going on today–that I was butting up against some sort of identity issue–not only resulted in clarity and self-compassion, it also prevented me from making a strategic error.

When I was reviewing what I’d gotten done today, and wishing that I had knocked more things off my to do list, I could feel myself reaching towards a potential solution. I was imagining, probably accurately, that if I had started the day by taking care of a bunch of other things on my to do list that I don’t have blocks around, I would have had more to show for myself. But it also would have been a mistake.

There’s a time and a place for accomplishing more routine tasks, and I do like being on top of them, but I want to be the sort of person who tackles something important that feels uncomfortable…something high value that I’ve been avoiding because it seems hard, and I’m afraid I might not be able to do it.

Even when it means a day where I’m not as focused.

Thank you, Resistance, for letting me know when I’m working on something that I care about, and that I think has the potential to make a difference in my life.