As I mentioned, being sick put me behind on a number of deadlines, and though I tried, I couldn't ignore Outlook forever. The messages from patient editors and collaborators came in over the course of a few days: "Could you let me know when . . . ?" If not a perfect storm, it is indeed a storm of deadlines.
The answer, I found, was to get up earlier and get to work earlier. I've always been an early riser, but I've usually used that time to read blogs, read the newspapers. After all, the world doesn't start work at 7, right? That makes it all right to read the Chronicle and the New York Times until a decent hour, like 9 or 10, doesn't it?
Not if you have a storm of deadlines. Instead of reading the news online until 10 or so, I started work at 7. This seems like a no-brainer, and yet I hadn't been able to do it before.
The results surprised me.
1. By starting right away, I didn't feel the need to check news or blog sites. I didn't even need to turn off the internet connection.
2. When I began, I'd start working on Project A but think, "Why aren't you working on Project B?" When I switched to Project B, I'd think, "Why aren't you working on Project A?" What I realized is that this was the lazy part of the brain trying to take over again by interfering with concentration. Eventually this voice quieted down.
3. I was looking forward to passing all the little mileposts I'd set up: number of words written before noon, etc.
4. I felt calm.
The last one was a surprise. How can you feel calm when you also feel incredibly stressed out? But even though the work isn't yet done, I went to bed the other day feeling the truth of this statement by Emerson as I hadn't felt it before:
"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."