Are You in Catch-Up Mode?
"The sooner I fall behind, the more time I have to catch up."
"I'm digging out." That's what my friend, Tim, said with a definitive sigh when I asked how he was doing back at work after knee surgery. "I'm catching up." Those were my own words when my friend, Monica, posed a similar question to me about a month ago. I told her it felt good to be returning to projects that I had put aside last winter in order to care for my mother. Yet Monica sensed a degree of heaviness in my choice of words. "You think you might want to reframe that catching-up part?" Seeing as how this reframing business is something at which we coaches are experts (ahem), I'm usually open to the suggestion. This time I found myself yeah-butting: Okay, but even if I call it something else, aren't I still catching up?
Monica's suggestion wasn't just for the sake of semantics. What she was asking me to consider was whether it was hindering me to view myself in catch-up mode. In the weeks that followed, I realized that the answer was yes. Say these projects go on for several months… am I going to declare the whole year a catch-up year? And why stop there? Maybe it will take me the rest of my life to catch up! That's the danger in this kind of thinking.
Here's what I've come to realize, in terms of the distinction to be made. There is the kind of catching up that's just fine: catching up on the day's news, spending time with a friend you haven't seen in a while, or settling down to work on a something you've wanted to do. This is the sitting back, relaxing into it, aah kind of catching up. Then there's the other kind — that feels like a never-ending digging out — that's the one that has a negative edge.
If your version of catching up feels more pressured than relaxed, or if you find yourself in this mode too often, then it's time to frame it differently. If all you're trying to do is catch up, forget it. What is catch-up anyway? It's a condiment!
No Ground Lost
One definition of "catch up" is to make up for lost ground; however, if you are choosing well and making conscious decisions, then it is very likely that no ground was actually lost and that you gained something from investing your time just as you did. Even if that's not the case and you wish you could go back and choose differently, give yourself the gift of wiping the slate clean.
Catching up implies that you are behind and need to rush. An effective re-frame is simply: doing the work at hand. This feels fresher, more current, and more manageable. It sets you up for progress. Rather than trudging through some expired to-do list, it frees you to make a new list by asking: What's important now?
The Work At Hand
Focusing on the work at hand reminds you that the power is in the present. It gives you the freedom to survey those items that are hanging out on your action list and consider them with a fresh perspective. If you determine they are still relevant, then your commitment to completing them will be renewed.
This Week's Call to Action:
Forget catching up. Start from now.
Here's to you,
P.S. Writing about "catch-up" as a condiment made me think of this: King of Queens/Doug & Arthur – Ketchup; Watch it and have a laugh!