Posted by BB Harding, member Women Move It Forward blog

For years, I have heard the adage “How you do anything is how you do everything.”  Usually, it went in one ear, registered momentarily, dropped into nah, and went on out the other ear.

Throughout the last couple of months, I have been in situations where that very phrase popped up more than once.  I have a rule of thumb, that if I hear something three times (or more), there is a possible message in there for me to look at.

For the past two weeks, I started paying closer attention to see if there was any veracity for me in that statement.  It was easy for me to literally say, I don’t do everything the same way, so what do they mean?  One of the “messages” was in the context of “tell me how you eat dinner, and I will tell you how you do anything.”  Another context “how you do your homework is how you do everything.”  And yet another was literally about doing tasks – “how you do a task is how you do your life.”

Ok this was food for fodder, so I decided to take a look at this.  Obviously, it wasn’t a literal statement, yet maybe there were some common threads.

At the time of the “eat dinner message” I can say that my normal mode was to go grab something, slap it together, and then eat on the run, or while I was doing something else (aka, multi-tasking).  I frequently ate directly from the pan and seldom used “real” dishes (why waste the time and have to cleanup after?)  And I seldom took the time to make something hot (too much trouble).  It was easy to have a few take aways on this one.  I am too busy to take proper care of myself; I look for what is easy to do; I don’t take the time to press the pause button and do something else; too focused on getting things done (or not); that there were things that just weren’t that important to me; I had various notions about keeping productive and efficiency.  One of the other contributors to not sitting down to eat was the fact that I really didn’t have any place to do that.  I could have made a spot on the desktop by pushing my computer out of the way, and I did do that a handful of times.  One of my efforts since I moved to my new place has been to take the time to put food on a plate and sit at the table to eat. Sometimes I do nothing else, and much of the time, I am having some Netflix on in the background.  It is still hard to do absolutely nothing other than eat.

Last week, I was cleaning the front windows on the house.  I was removing the screens, washing down the windows, vacuuming out the dirt in the sills (I wanted to be able to see the view, afterall).  I became aware that I was really taking my time in doing the task.  Not rushing, doing a “good” job; being present to the task.  I started reflecting on this. What is it that has me doing some things more thoroughly than other things?  What causes me to deep dive or skim the surface?  Some say I am meticulous to a fault; I often feel like I am not deep enough.  Some thoughts began to emerge.  If I REALLY like something, I will immerse myself in the topic to find out more.  If I’m ho-hum about it, I will stay on the surface.  What if I have to get something done and I don’t like it?  I work on it, am frequently diverted, and it often gets done at the last possible moment.  What if I have to get something done, and I don’t know how to do it? I struggle with it.  I will research the topic –“what does it mean?”  “What have others done?”  “What can I learn from this?” I’ll fuss with it; I’ll seek answers from others and typically will be dissatisfied with their answers. Other times I will be blown away with a response that makes it all obvious.  Overall, I’ll attempt to apply various learnings and theories that I have come up with to see if I can arrive at a solution.  I know when I am struggling (like what to write for a blog), I wonder how good is “good enough?”  or “when enough is enough?”  Then there is the part under this that says “what if my best is not good enough?” What then?”

I throw out the question about what is my conditioning around this?  A couple of things come roaring to the surface – “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.”  “Do a good job.” “If you are going to do it, do it right.” “You need to put in 100% (or more) to get the job done.”  “You should be able to figure this out on your own.” “There are times you have to do things you don’t want to do because it is for the greater good.”  “Don’t be sloppy about how you do things.”  “People will judge you on the way you do things.”  “Just get it done…because I said so!”  “Quit whining and get it done.” “A child could figure this out.”   OK, enough.

So, where am I with this experiment?  In the midst for sure.  I have learned a few things

  • It appears that I generally lack a sense of mindfulness in the things that I do.  Many things are done in multi-tasking mode; lack of full attention to the activity that I am doing.
  • How I approach doing something is contingent upon what s happening within me.
  • I have made inroads on caring for self, and yet there is much more to do.  Allowing myself breaks; doing things only for me (e.g. a meal); slowing down and being more present.  Allowing time and space into my life.
  • If I really like something, or really want to know – I will immerse myself, maybe even “work hard” to find out more.  It would be appropriate to note that “work hard,” in this case, doesn’t feel like “working” hard.
  • Conversely, if I don’t like something, don’t want to do something I will allow my energy / mind to wander; allow interruptions; fail to focus; struggle with getting the task done.
  • At times, I have no real commitment to doing something; this would fall more appropriately into the category of “I want to” be more committed in that area.
  • I find myself curious about a couple of things – would I be willing to commit to doing something for a period of time?  Something I like as well as something I don’t like?  Taking on a mindful, self-honoring approach.  Another inquiry:  would I be willing to only do things that I really liked or genuinely wanted to know something about?  This would require jumping past doing things because “I have to do them,” “I should or ought to be doing them.“

Going forward with this experiment, I am focusing on inducing more mindfulness into the way that I do things, and see where that will take me.  This feels as if it could be something that I share about again in the future.

How do you do anything?