Did You Finish Anything?

Monday, January 10, 2011

My mom came to visit in March for her basket convention, we went out the back door, she said, “I thought you said you were going to fix that door.”

I said I was going to try to finish things so I could get to things like fixing the door. Which is not the same thing as saying I was going to fix the door. But whatever.

My parents were coming down in October, I meant to get a new door when I was at Lowe’s while I was getting stuff to deal with the shower (which is a long, sad story that I will spare you all the details of), but I forgot. I have trouble thinking about more than one thing at a time.

I got home and took the door off the hinges.


The shower is not fixed, but I did get a new toilet, and it’s quite exciting to be able to have people over and not cock my ear after anyone uses it to listen and make sure it stops running. I realize that that’s a fairly pathetic level of progress but I’m going to have to take it.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s I started to feel bad about the many things I didn’t finish and the few I did, and decided it was time to finish the Scrap Exchange database upgrade that I started on 12/28/2008. (As much as I might have tried to forget about how long I’ve been working on this, I could see the creation date of the file every time I opened it, so there was no getting around it.)

That was one thing that had been hanging over my head that was actually close to being done. So I worked on that over the break and 38 hours later (plus the prior 60+ hours spread out over the past two years), it is done and up and running.


The rest of the year gets pretty mixed results in the Finish department.

I did get a source of heat installed in my office, the importance of which cannot be overstated. That was eleven years in the making and allows me to work all year in the same place without having to shift everything around for four months between mid-November and late March. This is a very, very exciting development, so that gets another Hooray.

I did do a somewhat exceptional amount of paid work (well, exceptional for me), which is good. Make hay while the sun shines and all that. Though not all of it is done yet, which is not so good.

I was thinking about the Word of the Year for 2011, and it seemed like I need a year with the word No before I can make it through a year with the word Finish — I wasn’t able to finish anything because other stuff kept coming up. But I wasn’t quite ready to commit to a year of No, it seemed so negative.

One of the books I’m hoping to write about in more detail at some point is an Island Press title called Holistic Management, which was written for people managing land but offers many useful ideas that can be applied to life in general as well as to land management. The subtitle is “A Framework for Decision-Making” and the main point is about how to make decisions that solve problems without creating a whole bunch of new problems that you hadn’t even thought of. (Like for instance people solving erosion problems by planting kudzu; these are the kinds of things we’d like to avoid.)

There are a series of tests you apply in your decision-making process, one of which is the “weak link test” — the idea that you should always focus on your biggest problem first, because “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Their point is that any resources you expend fixing something that is not the biggest problem are wasted, because no matter how strong the rest of the links are, a chain will fail at its weakest point. So you need to shore up the weakest point until it is no longer the weakest point, then move on to the new weakest point.

I think this is one of the most useful ideas in the book, and I try to think about whenever I’m trying to decide what to focus on.

Like most people, I’d be happy to lose weight and exercise more, but neither of those is my biggest problem right now.

I decided that my biggest problem right now is a lack of structure and inability to set a schedule. This is one of the reasons I didn’t finish things in 2010, because I dealt with everything as it came up instead of trying to impose some kind of order on it. It’s also making me feel like I’m working all the time, even though when you look at the number of hours I actually worked, it’s not that bad. (Days where you spend six hours thinking about how you should be working and two hours working feel worse than days where you spend eight hours actually working. Days where you spend eight hours thinking about working and zero hours working are even worse.)

So my goal for the new year is to do a better job of managing my schedule so I have some kind of structure — with actual breaks from work, when I’m not spending the whole break thinking about how I should be working — instead of a giant amorphous blob of stuff that I can’t seem to get through. And then maybe I’ll be able to finish things. Or at least stop thinking about them.

I haven’t quite started with this new plan yet because I feel like the start of my year got delayed by a week, since I lost a week working on the database. My friend Jenny said I should think about it like decades, like the ’60s didn’t really start until 1962 or 1963, before that it was still culturally the ’50s.

So in that spirit, I think I’m going to cook up some collards and Hoppin’ John for dinner on Monday and take it from there.

I’m thinking about trying again what I tried at the beginning of last year, to test out a new healthy, whole-grain recipe once a week and write up the results. And maybe make up for the past few months, since most of what I posted was about as far from healthy and whole grain as you can get. (But I’m not apologizing for the egg nog, that was good!)

So Happy 2011 to everyone, and the next recipe I post will be healthy. I promise.

4 Responses to “Did You Finish Anything?”

  1. Kate Says:

    Can you share your Hoppin’ John recipe? I like black-eyed peas and the idea, but have never seen a really appealing recipe…

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Yes, I have a recipe I like from Bill Nea’ls Southern Cooking. It’s good and simple. I’ll even try to remember to take pictures before I eat!

  3. fivecats Says:

    so maybe your Word for 2011 should be Finish?

    Or Limitations? (as in setting limitations for yourself regarding what you will and won’t take on so you can get to certain things that have been waiting for you to get to them)

  4. lessisenough Says:

    I think there’s something wrong with having the same word two years in a row — This time I mean it!

    Since last year’s word was Finish and it didn’t really work, it seems like I need a different word that addresses the root causes of my inability to finish. (Another Holistic Management tenet is “Stop the blows to the head before you take the aspirin” — I’m not sure that I’ve stopped the blows to the head yet.)

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