Especially for those of us in school, whether teaching or studying, or both, at this season temporal movement seems reversed: we take tiny steps, making scant forward progress, while the Holidays hurtle toward us, leaving ever less space while our string of tasks remains just as long, starts to overstretch the space remaining.
What do you do when your list, as whittled down to essentials as you can make it, still doesn't fit in the space?
Either: You have to find a way to fold that string of tasks in half, or coil it up, squish it down, so that you're taking care of more than one thing at a time.
Or: You have to burn through the tasks at a higher rate, so that you do things one at a time, but faster than you ever had reason to believe yourself capable of.
With the "folding the string in half" method, you could take a blog post and turn it into an essay for your "packet" that's due on Christmas Eve, so that the single thought/observation fuels two separate pieces of writing. Or make up one huge base of chocolate from which to make several different goodies. Or, if you're really pushed for time, don't make the chocolate from scratch, and make simpler goodies!
With the "burning through at a higher rate," you're essentially speeding up time from your own end. The Holidays, or whatever deadline, are speeding toward you; you speed up to meet it. You're not defeated by time!
That's exactly what I recently did to meet my Ultimatum. And not because I was smart about it--I wasn't in a condition to be smart at that point. I was fading out. I overcame time out of necessity, because I'd left what I had to do until the last minute. I had around a week, and even with some fudging with clothes and food, I needed to gain more than a pound a day (2-3pounds per week is what's considered safe). I'd lost time, thinking the race was already lost. My biggest message?
To overcome the inevitable, you have to go against everything you normally swear by.
I could write "weight loss tips" for the rest of my life, no doubt--without even thinking, those behaviors are what I do around food. So, for that week or so, I did the opposite of my usual self every possible time. Three cups of coconut cream a day no skimping. Full-calorie almond milk as well, chocolate flavored because you like that flavor better and it has more calories. In smoothies, with all the smoothie fixings in proper serving sizes, not the usual pinches. Rice cracker instead of carrot. Dip on cracker instead of naked carrot. Some substantial starch with the veggies, not veggies alone. With some sort of heavy sauce on top. Full? Eat some more. About to lose the whole lot? Back off, wait. Think you can hold some more down? Eat it. Drinking? Drink something caloric. Green powder in juice, not water. What are you doing putting stevia in your tea? Put something caloric, like honey. Oh yes you are going to eat dessert, and you're going to eat a brownie, not half a square of 90% cocoa chocolate that keeps you going all afternoon. Yes, you never eat at night. Well then, have a snack before you head up the ladder. Yes, you don't like an early breakfast. OK so drink mango juice that you never let yourself drink and don't dilute it and drink lots and then make breakfast.
Big time-defeater: calories per bite. Yes, apples are healthier than gluten free cookies, and yes, a big apple is substantial. And yes, I prefer apples to gluten free cookies. But I can't deny that the latter are much easier to eat, for more calories per bite, and they don't keep me chewing for minutes so if I overcome my horror, I can eat far more of them at a sitting. Calories per bite, and frequency of ingestion of calorie dense items.
Not just counter to my usual practice, but horrifying to my sensibilities. And once I'm out of my comfort zone, I can find unlikely allies.
Potato chips! Eww?! Usually I eat them once or twice a year, and regret it ferociously. The regret stems partly from my aesthetic attitude toward the chips (recrimination, self-flagellation), and largely from the fact that they always leave me with a stomach ache. At this point, though? I have a permanent stomach ache anyway, can't even lie flat at night. Bring 'em on! Loads of calories, take up very little stomach space, easy to each. And the oil and salt were actually somewhat stomach-calming. I showed up for Phil's birthday party already reflux-stuffed, wondering how I'd eat anything, afraid people would think I still wasn't eating. Getting into the potato chips in the appetizers enabled me to eat not only a bunch of the chips themselves but a proper meal, with dessert (in a bigger serving than I could comprehend), also. Potato chips became my friend.
And now I know, too, that salty and oily food could help an upset stomach. Avocado and nori, anyone?
One thing I didn't do was eat anything I'm actually allergic to, like gluten, or highly intolerant of (and opposed to in principle) like dairy, as that would have undermined the effort.
Finally, I left nothing to chance. I took the scale with me when I went to my appointment. It's a four hour drive to Anchorage at least, and I know long drives are dehydrating. Thank goodness I did.
So, I turned over on its head all my ordinary behaviors and ate as much as I could, as often as I could. I left nothing to chance, and I utilized some fudging to finesse and ensure success.
(Edited to add one more important thing blown out of my head with the arrival of unexpected guests:) -- During that "push to exceed the possible" period, I did not keep my eye on the goal. It would have been fatal to do so--I was trying to accomplish something I thought was impossible! I stepped on the scale a couple days in, and my weight had gone down (hypermetabolism), obliterating some of the progress. There was temptation to give up right there, or to use this as a goad to try even harder. I had to drive from my head that this was Monday and my appointment was Friday and there was still so far to go. I had to rescale my map so that Friday didn't even fit on the screen, and look no farther than the next calorie-dense bite. I knew when the appointment was; my psyche was suffused with that consciousness. No need to keep breaking focus by looking at your watch.
As a writer? Instead of going out and out and out to get more experience, I should sit down alone in the loft all afternoon and write, without stimuli everywhere. Instead of catching snippets of my life work, stuffing them in my thought-pocket and hoping I'll remember them among the dust bunnies, I should grab my pen the instant those thoughts come, and get them down, and nudge them farther. Reverse old patterns. Know that I can get something done in far less time than I think. And when I'm writing for a deadline, sit there and write, and write, and write. Zoom in so close that the deadline doesn't even appear on my thought-horizon. I know when the deadline is; my psyche is suffused with that consciousness. No need to keep breaking focus by looking at your watch.
One last thought, before I go off to ponder further the metaphor of my eating sprint-a-thon as applied to writing: It was a sprint, and it was a reversal of the normal. As a result, it was unsustainable. Very quickly, I was drawn back to my old habits. Everything has too many calories again and I have no appetite. But if I go back down, we're straight back to where I was a mere few weeks ago, except possibly worse. So while it's unsustainable, the scenario that forced the sprint is fresh enough in my mind that I remember why I had to sprint. Maybe I can be better organized in other aspects of life too.
Meanwhile, I just hand-grated a whole pound of cacao butter to inaugurate my annual goodie-making extravaganza. Some things I really prefer to make from scratch.
But I have the powdered sugar and all that stuff ready too for those who prefer that!