I finally got caught up.
I’m talking about my online media list. There used to be a long list of magazines, newsletters, movies, and podcasts for me to look at and listen to on the Internet. As of late this morning, I got through them all. I also caught up on my e-mail — at least, I read every message that has come in.
But the fact that it took me so long to get to this point tells me something is off.
In order to catch up with online media, it took an extended minor illness, which made me feel like sitting still and watching the screen more than I usually would, followed by a few unusually quiet weeks in the office.
And even if I caught up on my online viewing, I still have 14 hours of audio programs at my desk to listen to.
If you catch up on something only when almost everything else in your schedule settles down, it tells you you’re resisting the tasks you give yourself in that category. Almost always, that is because you are giving yourself too many of those things to do.
In my case, I love to keep up with what my friends in technology, personal development, and music are doing. That’s where most of my media list comes from. But I don’t love sitting at my desk or at the television watching Internet movies for hours on end. That’s where the resistance comes from.
I need to take this resistance into account so that I can give myself a realistic volume of movies to watch. I need to pick fewer movies to watch and fewer podcasts to listen to. In some cases, I may need to turn off a movie after the first few minutes when it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
How much is the right amount? To determine the ideal amount of an activity, you would have to take into account all the costs and benefits involved in comparison to your resources and objectives. But you know you have too much in your queue if you usually don’t get through most of the list before the end of the day. You also know you have too much if, as in my case, it takes an extraordinary sequence of events to get you caught up.
When you get to the point where you can say, “I finally got caught up!” it is not the time to go looking for more. This afternoon, for example, is not the time for me to scour the Internet for more movies to watch. Rather, this kind of moment is a perfect opportunity to get caught up in another area, or work ahead on something that’s coming. In my case, it was an opportunity to rake the leaves, a task that was easier to do because I got to it before this afternoon’s rain.
When you get caught up in something, and use that moment to get caught up in something else, you can start to change your expectations. “Caught up” isn’t something that should happen only after a series of lucky breaks or at the end of months of diligent effort, but is something that ideally you ought to be able to say at the end of any ordinary day.