209: Looking for Work and What Needs to Be Done

209: Looking for Work and What Needs to Be Done

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I once had the opportunity to observe a training that had nothing to do with homesteading, but got me thinking about something that applies to homesteading—and, really, life in general.

At this training, the instructor said in any situation I encounter, I’m looking for work. In other words, he was searching for what needed to be done in that particular situation to resolve it, so that particular situation was not a situation that needed to be dealt with anymore.

He also said, if the situation was a huge entangled issue, he would break that big thing into tiny little problems, and then look for the work that needed to be done first—the work that someone else wasn’t already covering.

He also said, if he chose to enter a situation, he should be doing something. Additionally, anyone else who entered that situation should also be looking for work within that situation. No one should be standing around. Conversely, there shouldn’t be three people stacked up on a task that’s already being taken care of. 

What needs to be done right now that’s not being taken care of? What’s the next thing that needs to be done? Good questions to ask, right?

Now you are probably thinking, Amy, it’s spring on the homestead. There is so much to do right now it seems weird that you would do an episode telling us to look for what needs to be done. But my topic today is intentional, if only as advice for myself.

Overwhelm makes you spin your wheels

When I came back from the LFTN Spring Workshop, my head was swimming with ideas. I hit the ground running and was so productive with my desire to do all the things. And then, a week later, I went into overload mode. There were so many things I wanted to do… that I actually didn’t do ANYTHING. My brain and body just turned to mush.

Have you ever done that? Your wheels get spinning so fast that you can’t get going and you’re just… stuck?

Sometimes there is so much to do on the farm that you don’t know where to start. And we spend so much time trying to figure out where to start that we don’t start in the most productive way. Sometimes we don’t start at all. We get stuck in the overwhelm. And it’s not even analysis paralysis. Sometimes it’s just flat out overwhelm.

Multi-tasking is unproductive

The instructor in the training I attended told the class to look for what needs to be done. That doesn’t mean look for every job that needs to be done and commit to every job that needs to be done. It meant look for a job that needs to be done. 

A job. This means don’t get lost in multi-tasking.

I understand that sometimes we have to multi-task, but I tend to take it to the extreme and make multi-tasking my downfall. I’ve always got 13 different things in some state of doneness. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that multi-tasking is basically half-assing a bunch of stuff that would get done faster and more completely if I’d do one thing and then the other instead of both things at the same time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by something without doing it because I was distracted or I was on my way to 13 other things that I wasn’t going to finish. 

When I’m thinking about direction in my life and all the things I want to do, I have a bad habit of approaching that situation like it’s one big tangled ball of string that’s on fire and I’m panicking trying to figure out how I’m going to put the fire out and unwind all the string and get all the knots out and keep it in a safe place and should I rewind that big ball again or cut the strings and make smaller balls of string and why did it get tangled anyway and how did it start on fire

But if I listened to the instructor from that training, I would instead approach it like this: you have a giant ball of string on fire, and the first thing you do is put the fire out.

That’s what you focus on. And that’s the only thing you focus on until that work is done.

If you are in a situation, what can be done? What is the first bit of work that needs to be done?

This translates to conversations, social media

This is even maybe a commentary on getting sucked into conversations that aren’t productive—the keyboard warrior type stuff on social media. Ask yourself, what is the work here that needs to be done? Don’t fall into the trap of twiddling your thumbs, scrolling mindlessly, reposting meme after meme, or fighting about stuff with people who can’t do anything about the actual problem.

While discussing social media the other day, my youngest had an interesting observation: Some people who say they don’t care what other people do with their lives, spend an awful lot of time posting about what other people do with their lives and what they think about it. My son noted that’s not really productive or solving anything.

I have to agree. What’s the work we actually should be doing?

Take on situations with intention

Looking for work or looking for the next thing that needs to be done is not to say don’t take a break or work yourself to exhaustion, but it is to say that when you enter a situation, do it with intention and with the purpose of finding something to do to bring a change to that situation. Look for the work that needs to be done.

You are faced with multiple situations every day in your life. The barn. The garden. The house. Your family. Your future plans. Your physical health. Your mental health. What’s the work that needs to be done? How can you approach that effectively? What one thing can you do to move yourself forward?

Look for the work. Look for the next thing that needs to be done

— Amy Dingmann 5-17-22

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