Slow Steps to Accomplishment.

Misti crossing Stream

I was shifting around papers on my desk at work today (yesterday, by the time this is published) and found a spiral bound copy of The Mosses of Texas I’d bought from BRIT a few years ago. It’s had several vintage copies of other botanical field guides from mid-century botanists, including Eula Whitehouse, stacked on top of it. I’d flipped through those when I’d initially bought them but had meant to really soak in them and digest them. And, I haven’t. I’d bought the moss book because I wanted to actually get good at moss identification. Chris even bought me Mosses of the Gulf South last summer and again, I haven’t cracked that open. I mean, yeah, sitting with a moss book and actually digesting it so that I can key out a moss is going to take more than flipping through the book over a long weekend. (If anyone wants to supplement this addiction to learning, you can buy me The Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas, too.)

It’s not just all of that, there’s too much I want to do. This post is a riff off of my recent Thoughts on Time post if you can’t tell. Because I can’t get out of my head all of the things I want to do. I’ve taken to writing out what I want to do and what needs to be done in multiple journals multiple times a day and week. And I know Rome wasn’t built in a day—so I’m trying to figure out how to take small bites to complete projects. A couple of pieces of advice I’ve heard recently, one pertains to writing: Finish Things. As in, finish the entire draft instead of starting something new. Finish a chapter before moving on. Etc. The other is from Brooke McAlary at The Tortoise, formerly the Slow Home Podcast, and that is the idea of the 1%. Here’s her summary of the 1%: “1% effort towards a long-term goal or practise: In this instance, the power lies in both the consistency of effort and faith that – over time – these efforts will add up. This means taking regular action that leads to positive change.”

And so, I’m trying to take those two approaches to heart. I’ve been working out consistently since early January, taking 30 minutes at lunch most days to lift weights and a few evenings a week to ride my indoor bike. I didn’t work out at all last week and paid for it dearly with my hip and lower back acting up after a weekend traveling in Chris’ truck for camping and sleeping on the air mattress. It’s feeling a little better because I beat it up working out (yes, I don’t get it, but putting my hip through the ringer in a work out makes it feel better—a pain that takes away a different pain.) but it hit home how much that 30 minute session 4-5x’s a week means to my body. It’s a little bit of effort for a lot of gain that doesn’t necessarily reflect in the ways that I would want it or would have gotten in my 20s (a smaller pants size).

Another thing I’ve worked on since January was editing the first part (50K words) of my NaNoWriMo book from 2021. It doesn’t suck! I worked on it a little most days or at least a few times a week and managed to get it edited in about six weeks. It seems like a long time but really it wasn’t. Now I know where to go from here to finish the book and where to go back and edit in some things later. But now I need to actually do that work. And in my mind it has to be all or nothing, not that the 1% effort that is actually needed to accomplish it so I hit those hurdles of not doing the work.

Meanwhile, I have other ideas flowing in, plus little commitments here and there for other projects, and garden and house projects. The list keeps growing. I’ve been trying to Do Less—less social media, less scrolling—well, taking away has meant actually doing more, the things I was putting off or not focusing on. Amazing how much creativity comes flowing back. I’ve even stopped podcasting this year, quitting one entirely and putting another on hiatus with thoughts to end it completely at some point in the near future.

I write all of this for me, mostly. I’ve gone back through all of my writing in the past and none of this is new for me. It’s just…me. hah! It’s what I do…freak out when I can’t accomplish things in a day/week/month and have to talk myself down from it and then I just don’t do it. You might be saying, Misti you should prioritize…and you’d be correct. Which is what I’m doing. But still, those other projects, the other ideas, keep trying to overtake the others and present themselves as juicy little morsels of creative ideas that seem better than whatever I’m focusing on now.

I’m including a random photo from our Appalachian Trail hike because when I get like this I tend to want to curl and shrink everything in and just put one foot in front of the other and sleep in a tent every night. Because that’s where the simplicity is. On the AT, or any trail for that matter, the goal is to get to your camp every night, however far away that might be, and you stop and filter some water, eat some food, air out your socks, maybe lay in the sun if you can find it, and that’s it. Did my mind constantly wander to ideas of things to do…yes, sometimes. But my mind was also quiet from all of the external noises, too. It gets that way when we go camping for a weekend as well. I like a quiet mind. When my mind is going-going-going, it drives me nuts and wakes me up at night.

Well, this is getting a little tangential and I’ve written and deleted several sentences already that were a bit much so I’m gonna leave it at that. I’m going to slowly whittle my ideas down and put the good ones into shape and get to work. More rants about time and creativity and getting it all done are sure to be a feature here again in the near future!


  • Kate

    Yes please keep this a feature, this all really resonates with me. All my life I’ve had these enormous lists of things I want to do, on paper or in my head. Slowly as I’ve gotten older I’ve naturally whittled down the list as I’ve realized that certain things were really more for external validation and not things I truly wanted to spend my one finite life doing. But…. always a but! As I’ve gotten older I have run into a different sort of problem. When I was younger I didn’t wind up doing most of the things on my lists for a variety of reasons (crippling perfectionism + a constellation of addiction issues + as I said the lists were full of things I thought I should be doing), and I’ve done a lot of work on those issues to the point where I am in a good place now. But then this means that I actually have the energy, focus, time, and discipline to Do All the Things, and that plus this feeling like I have to “make up lost time” from when I couldn’t get stuff done leaves me very susceptible to overcommiting (am getting better about that) but even if I’m not red lining I still feel next to incapable of just doing nothing. I have to force myself to stop, but even then it feels like I am ticking off a box on a to-do list… “quiet self care: check!” Lol you know what I mean?
    Therapy is helping me with this, yay for therapy.
    All that aside, I do have two things I wanted to share. One is a +1 to the small steps thing. I listened to an interview with the runner Alexi Pappas recently and she talked about training as like building a sand castle, where each bit of sand is an aspect of balanced training (different sorts of runs, recovery practices, etc), none of which you can really see but you need all of them over time to create something. I’ve also heard the metaphor of laying down bricks to build a wall, which I guess is helpful but ever since 2016 I have a visceral reaction to the word “wall” 😉 I’ve run for my entire adult life so this resonates with me, especially because when I was younger I was super inconsistent and all-or-nothing. It’s been in the past 5-6 years that the sand/brick thing clicked and the result has been that I’m PRing in my 40s and have started tackling trails and ultras, and it is SO fun. But that comes from not neglecting the shorter easy runs and proper recovery, it all adds up.
    Ok sorry this is getting long oops.
    The other thing I wanted to share was something I heard somewhere, about how we overestimated what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can accomplish in five. I have also found this to be 100% my case.
    One last thing, I just thought of it, do you listen to the podcast We Can Do Hard Things? You need to right now go listen to a recent episode called Amanda shares her letter from love (something like that, you’ll see, from mid February of this year).
    Ramble done.

  • Patrice La Vigne

    This all resonates with me, as did your Time post. I keep saying this, but my 40s have been all about being unapologetic about the way I do things, which is SLOW. Of course I am preaching that perimenopause and middle age wrecked my life, but if there is one benefit to it was being more metacognitive and realizing I need to write every single task out, prioritize and reprioritize, work on one single thing at a time and tell anyone who questions that method to fuck off.

    I also have that dread you mentioned in your last post about wasting time. Of course it’s easy to have those thoughts when sitting next to a dying person, but I keep realizing my life is prob halfway over and what things do I want to accomplish????

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