Today, in this week’s installment of my series dedicated to sharing some things I’ve found that help me to feel a little more comfortable when I”m having a Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day, I am REALLY excited to be hosting Cairene MacDonald of Third Hand Works.
Specifically, I asked her to talk about her program, “Bite The Candy“, which has helped me FINALLY make progress on whatever icky, blech things that are currently on my To Do list, things on which I am absolutely no progress whatsoever on my own. Welcome, Cairene!
1. You know I am a raving fan of Bite the Candy ever since I signed up for my first one last year, and now I just want to be a Bite the Candy Missionary so that everyone can receive the help and support that I have with those extra-sticky projects.
Can you tell us where the idea came from, and explain the metaphor behind the title?
The idea for Bite the Candy came from an event that was hosted by a virtual assistance organization in which I was a member way back when I first became self-employed. It was called the “If I Only Had an Hour” Game and its basic structure was much the same as BTC. It sounded like a ton of fun, and people got great results, but I never got around to participating because it lasted for five hours. On Friday afternoon. Not my idea of a great transition into the weekend.
After I shifted from support services to teaching, I wanted to offer a way to help people learn to work through their procrastination and complete tasks they’ve put off. Inspired by what I imagined the Game to be like, and other superb examples like Jen Hofmann’s Office Spa Days, Bite the Candy was born.
Except it wasn’t called Bite the Candy back then. It was called Get in Gear Fridays.
lesson-learned #1: Three hours on a Friday morning isn’t any better than five hours on a Friday afternoon.
lesson-learned #2: It’s not about getting yourself in gear.
Besides the timing being off, the name sounded much too naggy – like your mom asking you for the umpteenth time to clean your room.
And it didn’t at all describe what I discovered to be the key to finishing the sorts of odious chores that tend to drop to the bottom of our to-do lists.
I noticed what makes doing these sorts of tasks so difficult is not the work itself – these jobs are often quite straightforward – it’s coping with the excessive chatter of one’s Hurried-Worried Mind Hamster while trying to do that work.
The longer I’ve put something off, the more stories my hamster has to distract me with. There are layers and layers and layers of stories: my excuses for not doing it in the first place, guilt about not having done it long ago, and so forth. Yet at the center remains the inherent goodness of doing the thing.
That reminded me of tootsie pops.
And we all know there are two ways to eat a tootsie pop: you can slowly lick your way to the center or you can just bite the candy and enjoy it now.
It turns out the key to moving through procrastination is being able to move through your stories. It’s not enough to say “now is the moment” because when you show up to do the thing, all the ick about doing it is there to meet you. But if you know techniques for navigating that resistance, you can set aside those stories and just get the thing done already – without willpower or navel-gazing – and have fun doing it.
2. Do you participate in the sessions too, or just host them? What kinds of things have you worked on during BTC?
As you know, finishing something you’re not thrilled to be doing requires skillful management of your energy. Leading the group also requires energy, but of a contrasting type. So I’ve had to learn over time which sorts of tasks don’t interfere with my ability to create a positive experience for participants.
After a lot of experimentation, I’ve found the best way for me to use sessions is to work on the administration of BTC itself and make sure all the little backend details have been taken care of for future sessions.
If that work is already finished, tasks on my to-do list right now that I’d bring to the party are things like…
- deleting and archiving files on my old computer in prep for moving only what I need to my new computer
- cleaning up my web hosting account and domain registrations
- completing the paperwork for local taxes
- processing the random/non-urgent personal mail that needs a response
- filing the piles of paper that have accumulated in my office
Reducing and organizing paper piles and clearing other forms of clutter are always popular choices. You could work on getting your inbox to zero (or just to less than 100). This is also a great opportunity to document or update your systems.
I award a million points (in a game where the points don’t matter) to anyone who takes on anything involving a financial institution, government agency, insurance company or technological help desk.
It’s also becoming more common for people to bring project work, like updating web copy or writing a chapter of an ebook – not necessarily because they’ve been procrastinating on doing it, but because they want the extra structure and support to complete a challenging task.
Really, there’s no limit to what you can bring to Bite the Candy.
3. I know that another part of your work is helping create systems and organization with clients who you refer to as “right-brained.” What kind of people are you talking about here?
By “right-brained” (which is something of an archaic term – we all use our whole brains – it’s just a handy way to refer to a set of traits), I’m talking about people who generally prefer…
- imagery and words over numbers and lists
- connections and relationships over sorting and ranking
- synergy over compartmentalization
- intuition over logic and analysis
- rhythm and pattern over rote repetition and routine
- flexibility and spontaneity over rigid structures
If you are such a person, most readily available time-management and organizational systems aren’t much help because they are designed for more linear thinkers.
I’m in the business of helping right-brainers discover and develop alternative organizational systems that work the way their brains work – so they can get the important things that need doing done without wasting time and energy trying to be someone they’re not.
4. As everyone knows, there are about a billion “experts” out there who claim to have the latest, one-size-fits-all, magic bullet program to help us with our organizational problems. But unfortunately we also all know how a lot of those programs tend to be bossy and yell-ey and judgmental, and how they actually end up making us feel worse because we blame ourselves when they don’t work for us.
In keeping with the soothing theme, how do you help soothe a client who comes to you from this beaten-up, self-hating place?
It’s heartbreaking to me that people end up feeling like such failures for not being able to work or live in ways that are incompatible with their innate preferences and tendencies.
If you’re in that beaten-up, self-hating place, here’s what I want you to know:
- There are as many valid ways of being and doing as there are people in the world. One-size-fits-all is total BS.
- There isn’t anything about the way you are wired that will prevent you from finding a way of organizing yourself that feels natural and allows you to be successful.
- Making desired changes in your life does not require violence, force or any form of so-called “ass kicking.” You’ll get better results more quickly from lovin’ yourself up as much as you can.
It’s much easier to figure out what actually works for you when you start from a place of self-acceptance – though that isn’t always easy to remember. I have to remind myself all the time that I don’t need change myself, only the way I’m doing things.
5. Are there any new products or special events happening at Third Hand Works that you’d like to tell us about?
Of course, your readers are warmly invited to bring their own extra-sticky projects to BTC and try it for themselves. Bite the Candy sessions are held the last Thursday of each month and you can register here.
Also, from now through June, I’m working in my Incubator to revise and update my library of systems and techniques, including a program with the working title of How to Finish Anything. It explains, well, how to finish anything – from small tasks to big projects, ordinary or extra-sticky. Look for that this summer. Or, if that’s too long a wait, folks can still join the Incubator and get in on the beta goodness until April 8. Details and registration are here.
Cairene loves helping people like you find the right-relationship with the administrative side of their creative businesses.