Now that Mary is starting to get a sense of how the Saboteur works in her case, what can she actually do with this information?
First, she can organize the information to help her anticipate, or at least recognize, when and how the Saboteur is likely to attack.
For example: Mary already knew that the feeling of “too much to do” would shut her down. What she didn’t realize was that its opposite, an open day with lots of unstructured time, could be just as dangerous. This also suggests that, like a lot of people, one of Mary’s primary challenges is balance (more on that in a minute).
Now she can bring awareness to the situation. Mary now realizes:
“I don’t deal well with unstructured time. It puts me in a wandering mode. I collect new tasks which put me into overwhelm which leads to the desire for avoidance and escape.”
Knowing this allows her to recognize it as it’s happening, so she can break the pattern and make a new choice.
If she notices herself chasing red herrings or getting caught up in secondary priorities, she can remind herself:
“These are behaviors that are designed to create overwhelm. They cause things to pile up in my inbox while nothing ever gets completed. This makes me feel like I’m ineffective and running out of time, and that is not productive.”
Not only can she now make a different choice, Mary can actually choose to feel encouraged (this takes practice). Remember the Saboteur doesn’t come out for no reason. So, while it wants you to feel like things are going nowhere, its mere presence suggests otherwise.
Any thought or action she now recognizes as one of her particular self-sabotage strategies can work as a red flag to bring her to consciousness. The thought, “I certainly can’t be expected to be productive when I’m overloaded or unclear,” or the impulse to do something besides work because “at least it will be productive,” can work for Mary instead of against her.
Second, Mary can put structures in place to support her in her efforts to deal with the Saboteur and be more effective in her business.
Scheduling your time, ahead of time, is a great tool for most people. As I mentioned before, often the real challenge is creating balance in a variety of areas. For Mary the thing to experiment with is the ratio of structure to free time. “Overwhelmed” and “wandering” are the two poles that teach Mary the borders of a balanced state.
Pop quiz: Would Mary work better with long work periods where she can get focused, get in a groove, and ride the momentum? (hint: no, it’s the next one)
Or, would she benefit most from lots of short burst, manageable work periods separated by brief off-time with a variety of chores, periods of rest or exercise, and a few fun things included.
In fact, Mary will do much better with every task being broken down into manageable pieces that have assigned time periods. This creates lots of easy wins for her and gives her a sense of progress and momentum.
How will Mary know to try this?
Because her Saboteur showed her, when she carefully examined her day, that when projects, situations and time periods seem too large, they take on a monolithic, unmanageable quality that blocks her connection to “possibility.” By better understanding what causes her breakdowns, Mary can learn to work with who and how she is, her strengths and weaknesses, and not put herself in bad positions.
In addition, Mary can identify her highest priority the night before and schedule it first thing to ensure it doesn’t get away from her. She can also schedule a time a little later in the day to check e-mail for a finite amount of time. For many people this feels very challenging, if not impossible. Try it, you’ll learn a lot. Remember: it’s unlikely there’s anything in there that’s more important than your highest priority, so why should it be the very first thing you do?
If she ever loses focus, the highest priority is a great way to reorient and make sure the most important thing is being addressed.
Another great tool I recommend is to schedule a pause to reflect several times throughout the day. It’s a really effective way to check in and see if you are on course or if the Saboteur has lured you into unconsciousness.
If you do find you lost your way, it’s a great opportunity to gather information. It’s very tempting when we stumble to go into regret, anger, self-pity, etc., but those are actually just ways to sabotage the valuable research you could be collecting.
By detaching and asking what the Saboteur has to teach us, we begin to reap the benefits of this strange and confusing relationship.
Question for you:
Want to see a different example of the Saboteur in action? Let me know! And, if you want, suggest a version of the Saboteur (something your Saboteur does) that you’d like to see addressed.