My Deep Life Project: Contemplation

When I think about Contemplation that’s learning and reflection, but Newport cites spirituality, philosophy, which can lean towards contemplation. I’m vaguely spiritual, but not religious. This summer, I contemplated my Executive Functioning strengths and weaknesses.

I’m weak in task initiation, working memory, and stress tolerance, but I’m strong in planning / prioritizing, flexibility, and goal-centered persistence (damn right: I’m finishing writing my third and fourth book this year). I learned this from a book Meggan got me: The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success by Peg Dawson, and Richard Guare two teachers and psychotherapists. They provided a framework for considering these two areas.

The weaknesses make a lot of sense due to my diagnosis: ADD affects Working Memory and procrastination (Task Initiation) and Aspergers leads to not being comfortable with regular schedule changes, which leads to anxiety and therefore low stress tolerance. The former leads to depression and what my diagnosis said in my personality profile is that I “expect to fail” in all of my goals, because I procrastinate and don’t fully capture all of my Yes’s. I do think I do a fairly good job of combating Working Memory, due to my journaling habit that I’ve cultivated since I was a teenager. I think I write down about 85 to 90 percent of the tasks and projects I need to do and those next steps but I’m not so much good at getting started, which is why I gravitate toward GTD and specifically the Two Minute Rule.

I ask: will this next step take 2-5 minutes for me to do? If the answer is yes then I’ll get started, but it’s the next steps that really hold me up. If it takes a while to get started, I will put it off. For example, in my contemplation it matters to me that I read more and I process my notes from my reading into a reference system that’s sustainable. I’ve tried doing Ryan Holiday’s index-card system but it creates too much clutter and I have a lot of pocket notebooks already and journals, so I didn’t stick with it. I think I’ve hit upon a good system but it is still really time-consuming. Here’s what it looks like right now in reference to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Zadie Smith’s recent book of essays, Intimations:

What the process looks like in my Bear notes

Obviously, I need to simplify the whole thing but I haven’t taken the step to figure that out.

Probably I will figure that out once I hit post on this essay.

Now for stress tolerance, I do a lot better when I counter it with time blocking—though that also feeds into my Aspergers diagnosis that when anything deviates from the time block, especially if it cuts off writing deep work, it usually really affects my tolerance and stress levels. But the middle ground is to counter it with mediation which I use the Waking Up app and Stoic philosophy, both of which I engage in daily.

Stoic Philosophy—while it is about more than dealing with stress—that is specifically what it combats for me is tolerating and handling stress and feeds into my flexibility strength that could always be improved, because I get stressed out easily.

Meditation and philosophy really does help with seasonal Resistance Syndrome. It’s probably why this September transition went more or less smoothly but the overarching goal for contemplation and constitution and dealing with all of my executive functioning and mental and physical health is to get more sleep. That is probably the biggest goal of all this fall season—work on getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a day and that greatly affects my ability to function at my best.

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