This week, I was in a panic. I was behind in my music practice and in my Bible goals, and I was tired of people but I wanted to hang out with our family who was in town. By Wednesday night, I was having a mental breakdown. In the middle of my panic session, I began thinking: When I’ve gotten stuck in a panicky rut in the past, how have I gotten out of it? By the end of Thursday, I had decided on four steps:
Step 1: Calm down. When I get into a frenzy, I lost my ability to focus on a solution. I started panicking about what I haven’t done, instead of doing something. Until I calmed down to think, I got into a vicious cycle of “I’m-a-terrible-person” syndrome and not doing anything productive. Here are a couple of things that help me calm down:
- Prayer. Until I turn my problems over to God, I keep failing, simply because I’m trying to do everything myself. I believe that asking Him for guidance on Wednesday helped me find a solution on Thursday.
- Unplugging. This is one that I need to work on. While watching a bunch of YouTube videos helps make me forget my problems for a while, it really just suspends my panic, making it much worse when I realize how much time I’ve wasted watching funny videos.
- Realizing that the problem is solvable. The problem may be hard, but it’s not impossible. Once you’re calm, you can actually start fixing the problem.
Step 2: Evaluate the problem. Sometimes the problem isn’t as bad as you think. Sometimes it’s worse than you think. If you have a big jumble of problems, try writing them down. Once you force yourself to identify the problems, you can see which ones you can fix, and which ones are beyond your control. On Thursday, I made a mental list of my problems, and forced myself to break down each one:
Behind on music practice: My goal was to practice 45 minutes each on piano and violin for 5 days each week. This week, I have done exactly 0 minutes of that practice time. It is frustrating that my music practice time isn’t where I want it to be, but I need to understand that we’ve had guests in our house for several weeks, and family time takes priority over music during break. So, I should work on getting back into my practice routine, but not feel guilty and depressed over the past week.
Failure at Bible goals: I’m several days behind on my one verse a day goal for December. Because I committed to finishing the book Thirty-One Verses to Write on Your Heart this month, I should make a plan not just to continue, but to get caught up on my plan. Also, since I’m starting a new Bible reading plan in January (spoiler from next week’s post), I need to finish the current plan I’m on.
Needing alone time but wanting to be with people: I don’t need to be alone all the time, I just need a break. My family won’t be mad if I need a little time to recharge.
Step 3: Decide what needs to change going forward. Some things need to be added. Even though I might not be able to complete my practice goal, I still need to spend some time practicing. Some things need to be removed for a while (or permanently). I spend too much time on YouTube (a battle I’ve been fighting for a while), so maybe I need to take a break from spending time on YouTube at all.
Once you know what needs to be done, make a plan to do it. Your plan should be as specific as you need. Without a plan, I tend to work very hard to get nothing done. While making your plan, don’t lose sight of what you can actually do. I love to challenge myself (hence several of my posts are challenges for myself), but I tend to grossly overestimate my time and energy levels. Michael Hyatt has a great podcast on goal setting which has helped me. Here’s a link.
My plan looks like this:
- Take a morning to recharge and get caught up on some of your goals. Write your blog post for Saturday, continue the post you’re writing ahead for the end of the year. Finish the next three chapters in your Bible study plan. Memorize four verses. Enjoy time with your family in the afternoon.
- Go to bed no later than 10:30 tonight, and use your early morning tomorrow to continue with your Bible goals (memorize verse of the day and continue Bible plan). Then you can spend time with your family, while still having time memorizing Scripture.
- Take a break from all YouTube videos for the weekend. As much fun as they are, they’re not helping me get anything done.
Once you’ve gotten started on your plan, make a commitment to continue it for a certain about of time. Otherwise, you end up with dramatic bursts of productive energy with no direction.
Step 4: Start doing it. Even though it’s fun to sit around planning, nothing will change if you don’t do the work. Once you have your plan, immediately follow it. This morning (Friday), I only came downstairs for breakfast. I spent my morning writing this post (blog post inception!), practicing music, reviewing Bible verses, and enjoying some time without extra input. I didn’t get everything done, but I made much more progress than if I had done nothing.
When you’re stuck in a rut, it can be easy to panic, or to ignore your problems and hope they go away. The good news is that you’re not alone, and you’re not hopeless. If you’re stuck in a rut, try these four steps, and see if they help you get back on track with your goals. And if you think I missed a step, let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear your advice on making a comeback!