And what else?

I’m a big goal-setter. I like my plans and ambitions to shape my daily activities. But sometimes, things get in the way. If you’re perfectly on track, well-rested, chugging away at your goals with not a glimmer of stress or uncertainty, you can stop reading right now.

Chances are, this is not the case. It isn’t for me. When I looked over my planner notes from the past few weeks, I realized that something was missing: my novel. Technically, this is the most important activity in my life. Being an author is my lifelong dream and ultimate goal. So I asked myself: Why haven’t you been writing? The quick and easy answers came out first: no time, too tired, too busy, something else came up. But sometimes your first answers are not the only (or even right) answers. You have to ask yourself…And what else?

When I asked myself: Why haven’t you worked on your novel so much? My answers were: I have no time. And what else? Well, I’ve been playing sports a lot (as I do every summer) and I don’t want to give them up, so “no time” really means “practice time is not flexible”. I’m too tired. And what else? I’ve been trying to wake up earlier a few times a week and get work done, but l’ve had major cramps all week and haven’t been sleeping well at all. Too busy and something else came up. And what else? I need to get back to saying “no” to some things that aren’t a priority. I can highlight them easily in my planner. Just a few minutes of reflection will help me cut out extraneous activities.

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And then I asked myself: and what ELSE else? Reluctantly, I answered: In reality, I wish I didn’t have to go to work on the mornings I wake up early to write. It seems like the second I get into a groove is the second I realize that it’s time to get ready for work. I wish I could go to work late once a week and get a solid chunk of time to write until September when sports are over and I’m back to my more flexible gym schedule and can write at night and more on the weekends.

So I decided to ask my boss if it would be possible for me to come in late once a week so I can write in the morning. I’d still be available online during this time and I’d make up the hours on other days. The worst he can say is “no”. But I wouldn’t have come up with this plan if I didn’t ask myself: And what else? Asking yourself this question helps to get to the root of the problem.

But you have to really ask yourself. This is between you and you. For weeks I have gotten more and more annoyed that my new-found productive mornings have been cut short when the solution is (or might be…we’ll see what the outcome is) a simple ask. But heading to work just a few hours late never seemed like an option until I said it out loud to myself. Instead of answering the same tired questions over and over with the same tired answers, try asking: and what else?

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