Things I have done today:
*Sorted through the entirety of my fiance’s nearly 1500 Pokemon and appraised them
*Read the entirety of Lilly Singh’s How To Be A Bawse (a book with over 300 pages) in basically one sitting (outside of minor breaks to attend to household activities) [This book is both incredibly uplifting and a real kick-in-the-pants; I feel both confronted and empowered! The reading of this book may have been a large influence on me writing this post.]
*Spent entirely too many hours on reddit and Facebook
Things I have not done today (yet):
*Worked on that novel that I made good progress on in NaNoWriMo in November and told myself back then that I was going to finish and hopefully publish
*Applied for more jobs
*Promoted my Fiverr page (oh wait)
*Promoted my blog
*Went for a walk (this probably won’t happen today now because it is dark…though I do have a step elliptical stashed in my closet…)
Like many people, especially other autistic people, once I’m doing a thing, it is very easy for me to power through that thing and keep doing it until it’s natural conclusion.
This works out well for things that have a natural conclusion, like reading a book or sorting through a finite number of Pokemon.
This can cause problems for things that don’t have natural conclusions. I follow so many people, so many pages, and so many groups on Facebook that I can keep scrolling down for eons and still find new things (and, on the rare occasion that I do reach the point where I’ve caught up to what I last saw, I can simply refresh the page and see so much more content filling its place). There are thousands of subreddits, and many subreddits have thousands of posts. There is no explicit endpoint to social media, no last page that flips over to the last cover, no last Pokemon at the end of that long list. Once I’m caught up in social media, I may not stop until something makes me — my fiance asking me to come over (and even then, I may push it aside for a few hours to keep scrolling until he asks me for the fifth time in a row when I’m coming over), my parents asking me to do something, or my own hunger and fatigue.
The simple solution would be to simply start more productive things instead. Instead of opening a tab and typing in “Facebook”, I could open a tab and type in “drive.google”, which would bring me to where my incomplete rough draft of that novel currently lives. Instead of scrolling through another Askreddit thread, I could scroll through another page of Indeed.com. Instead of sitting in front of my computer, I could put one foot in front of the other and walk myself out the door and into the street.
But it’s easier to start a task that is passive and requires less effort (like reading) than it is to start a task that requires an output of energy (like turning the frenzied typing of someone trying to get 50k words out in a month into an actual plot that goes somewhere). Doing an energy-heavy task requires a start-up push of energy. And going from low or no energy to a lot of energy requires, well, a lot of energy.
It doesn’t help that many tasks can’t be done in one sitting. Sure, maybe some people can write a novel from start to finish in a day or in a few sleep-deprived days, but I’m not at that level of skill quite yet. Writing a novel is something that I have to start and pause and start and pause and start and pause and start and pause and start and pause. Which means that I’m not just putting in that start-up energy once; I have to do it over and over and over and over.
The same goes for finding a job. Sure, I can search for jobs in one sitting. I can apply for jobs in one sitting. I can even attend an interview in a day. But only a portion of the jobs I search for are jobs that I am qualified for and that I would even somewhat enjoy, and only a portion of the jobs that I apply for actually make it to an interview stage, and only a slither of the jobs that I interview for will actually land me that job. So I have to keep searching, keep applying, and keep interviewing. And even then, maybe the job offer I’ll get is part-time, or maybe it doesn’t pay enough to meet my long-term financial goals. So then I have still have to keep searching and keep applying and keep interviewing.
It’s not that I’m incapable of finishing a task that requires a lot of energy to start or that one has to break into increments of resuming and pausing — I finished college.
But college makes that initial push of energy for each class, each assignment, a little easier because there are explicit deadlines. I have to finish this essay by this date. I have to have read these chapters by this date if I want to do well on this test. In my QV contract position, I had to be at work from 4PM to 1AM, and I had to, say, complete a given checklist by the end of the week or complete a charter in two hours or put in X number of bugs in a given timeframe. My parameters were set for me, and there was little room for give on those parameters.
[This is even true for my blogging — I produced more content during the Autistic Acceptance Month 30 Day Blog Challenge (which was made by someone who is not me) than I have in all of my other posts combined.]
When you’re the one setting parameters, you’re the one expending the brainpower and energy on the parameters. There’s no one telling me that I have to finish and publish my novel by X or Y date: if that ever comes to fruition, it’ll be because I had to set a goalpost and then reach it. While my parents would like me to get a good-paying job “as soon as possible”, they’re far too merciful to kick me out after a certain amount of time has passed. Sure, they motivate me, but the actual execution of me landing that job is entirely up to me.
There are some people who can accomplish things without having to plan them out, have explicit deadlines, or impose some definite marker on themselves. My life outside of academics strongly suggests that I am not one of those people.
Not that this is the first time that I have come to this conclusion. I’ve tried making schedules for myself before. I had the Productivity Owl Chrome extension installed during college at some points (which I just re-installed).
The problem is, though, that the first initiation of a schedule, the getting-used-to-it part, also consumes energy. It is so much easier to fall into one’s usual habits than to change those habits. Especially if one is disrupted while in that 21-day creation phase of a habit — if one has an errand to run that prevents them from, say, writing during a set writing time, if one gets called into an interview or training, if one gets messaged on Facebook and the message seems like it can’t be postponed until the allocated “free period”.
That and there’s no Productivity Owl for the iPhone (that I know of).
As I’ve written about before, I don’t think that my current situation will allow for me to have a completely mapped-out, minute-by-minute schedule.
But I do need to start setting more explicit, hard goals. Because some of us really do need a written-in-stone deadline, an objective requirement, to focus our energy. Otherwise, we’ll keep riding what’s comfortable, familiar, and low-energy unless directed otherwise.
So, to lay down some goals:
*Have a rough draft of my novel finished by August 1st (a generous 80 days from now)
*Post on this blog at least once per month (at minimum; ideally, once every two weeks)
*Read at least one book per week (of the many, many books on my bookshelf, I’ve probably read less than 40% of them. Like, I got How To Be A Bawse for Christmas and just got around to reading it today, and there are many books that I’ve had for a lot longer. The next one is to finish Sinner by Dekker, which I got about halfway through many months ago but never finished).
Will I be successful in adhering to these goals? Maybe, maybe not. But I have a much better chance at being successful at these than at being successful at the vague goals “Write a book” and “Be successful.”
Some other really awesome articles on autistic inerita (not that the “inertia” phenomena is at all limited to autistic people — it’s literally a law of physics — but autistic and other neurodivergent people do tend to experience inertia intensely):
Autistic Inertia: An Overview by Unstrange Mind
Autistic Inerita by No Longer In A Box
Using the Maori creation story to navigate autistic inertia by Altogether Autism
Inertia by autisticality