A single word that accurately describes my work style is Pressing.
I’m always pressing because my mind always needs to be focused on something productive. If it isn’t, doubt, insecurity and just pointless B.S. creeps in. I suspect many of you have the same problem.
For me, I cannot allow my mind to be idle. This has less to do with my drive-for-productivity than my need to actively manage my thoughts. I find people who are most successful are the people who are most adept at managing their self-talk.
“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
The very fact that a quote exists for this insidious condition means that it’s prevalent. When we’re bored, our brain creates wholly novel scenarios for us to mull and agonize over. Suddenly a random jab from a guy two-months ago or a phone call that wasn’t returned, takes on a sinister meaning. Or worst, the straw man created by the random firings in our forebrains (…a 100 million year old gift from our ancestors; great for hunting and gathering, awful for worrying about what Gary said about us at the water cooler), is projected onto a real person who has no idea why you’re pissed-off at him.
This is the very essence of self-talk. The silent chatter that goes on in our heads. Self-talk can be an extremely powerful motivator if it’s positive and constructive. But if it’s negative and destructive, it will ruin more relationships, careers and sales than anything anybody else can do to you.
Here’s what I do to strangle pointless thoughts.
1. Treat work like a game. Work to me is game I’m paid to play. I like games. I tend to do really well at things I like. It’s that simple. If you see work as a grind, it absolutely will be. If you see work as a game, where tasks, projects and personalities are part of the game, then everything becomes infinitely more enjoyable. And if I keep my mind on figuring out this game all the time, something I enjoy anyways, pointless thoughts have a harder time getting in. You might as well use something you’re engaged in most of your waking hours to your advantage.
2. Constantly reading, writing or creating. A book forces you to synthesize all the images, sounds, and emotional complexities from words on a page. You are creating an entire world in your mind as you read. A TV craps its load through your eyeballs while demanding absolutely no active thinking from you. When you read and write, you create new thoughts and ideas. The more you create, the more you know of yourself. The more you know of yourself, the more you get to live by your own rules and only allow those you want in. This blocks out the contagion that is other people’s drama or expectations of how you should live your life. And the single greatest source of bullshit thoughts is other people’s drama.
3. Spot crappy thoughts when they arise. Crappy self-talk and unproductive thoughts are an addiction. And like most addictions, there are triggers that start the cascade. If you’re the type of person who is highly introspective and constantly looking for ways to master your thoughts, you probably know by now certain events, people or words trigger negativity. To be frank, I haven’t figured how to block the cascade of negative thoughts but I acknowledge they’re coming and say to myself “I’ll deal with this s___ later,” and immediately force myself to think about the project I’m working on. And you know what? Most of the time I forget to feel bad.
You are generally only able to focus on one thought at a time. You can choose to indulge in crappy non-productive thoughts or you can visualize a ‘delete’ button and replace them with something positive.