My hair dresser says there are two kinds of people in the world: those with curly hair who hate it because they can’t manage it, and those with straight hair who hate it because it isn’t curly and cute.
It must be nice to live in a world that simple. I try not to mention Egypt, Congress or global warming while she is working on me so as not to complicate her life.
The right brain/left brain discussion brings out about the same level of discontent. Those who are comfortably bilateral, but in a narrow range, envy both the wildly creative types and the sturdy productive engines.
Those who have a world of abstract ideas bubbling up within them at all times envy the boring souls who always get the oil changed in their car on time, file their tax returns on February 3rd and never forget which dry cleaners they left their favorite jacket at.
And the gloriously dependable, problem solving, get-it-done types wish their lives had a little more sparkle than the occasional discreet emoticon they add in an e-mail to their grandkids.
But at the end of the day, the generalities about right and left brain predispositions mask the fact that while we may default to one portion of our brain or the other, we do have two hemispheres and the issue is not so much lack of brain power as it is lack of skill in shifting gears.
So the previous post explored procrastination caused by paralysis in getting started. It does not need to be this way even if you do default to right brain thought processes.
Shifting gears from right brain, big vision, to left brain, bit-by-bit is relatively easy when you have an understanding partner who can tell you where to start. They normally don’t have to lay out the whole job. They just give you the first bit, and you shift gears into your very own left brain, and do the rest of that bit-by-bit stuff.
Suppose, however, that you are extraordinarily deprived of quasi-intelligent life forms in your immediate vicinity. What can you do to shift gears on your own?
I have to shift gears a lot at work, because I am in charge of two wildly different worlds. One moment, I am the mad scientist happily puttering around my right-brained lab, and then I have to abruptly shift into COO role and look at all the plates spinning on sticks so I can figure out which one needs to be twirled next, by whom.
There is another variation to the theme and that is emotions. If I am on the phone with one of you fine people and it turns into a very emotional call, either because I am caught up in the pathos of what you are involved in or because I am angry at your outrageous denial of reality, I will get pulled into right brain mode. Although strong emotions are not necessarily in the creative zone, they do, generally, conflict with any bit-by-bit thinking.
So here are some things I do when I see I am in hard right brain mode and need to get to the bit-by-bit software in a hurry.
-Stand up and move around. The left brain works best when you are upright. So I will get out of my chair, walk to the back of the warehouse or anywhere else for a couple of minutes.
-Do something with my hands. You will often find me in the kitchen after a messy phone call. I will wash the three or four dishes that accumulated in the sink from snack times or dry the lunch dishes that are in the drainer. Neither is vital, but it is mechanical, something I do with my hands. Making the rounds of the desks and gathering up security paper to take to the shredder also works.
-Do something that brings quick closure. The dishes and the shredding have that added value. When we get something done and celebrate closure, or cross something off a list, it moves us into the left brain. Sometimes I will go assemble half a dozen albums just to use my hands and be able to count to six and put them on the shelf.
-Do some writing that is all factual — not creative. I will scan my e-mails to see if there is something from Sally Jones wondering if I am going to be in East Overshoe, Iowa this month. I can whip off a clean, simple, factual answer: Not happening, Sally. In your dreams! Why would a self-respecting jungle boy want to subject himself to your current deep freeze?
-Synchronize with someone else’s left brain. Often it is as simple as asking Megan what she is working on. I ask her where she is in the list of things for the day, and what she will do next. As she tics off her list of accomplishment, I automatically click into the left brain analysis mode, evaluating her choices and doing the bit-by-bit in my head. As soon as I find myself doing that for her world, I know I am back in business and can solve my own next task.
-Find something illogical I want to fix. For me, it is simple. I click on Fox News on the web and go to the political page. Almost any article, by any pundit, on any subject, is going to be so full of spin, omissions and flat-out prevarications, that I can feel my left brain analysis come roaring to the front, shredding their presentation and rewriting the whole story around truth and logic. And I know I am back.
So, to summarize. I have a left brain capability to do bit-by-bit work and so do you. We may not be able to build a space shuttle in our head, but we certainly have the ability to break down a wonderful, right brain, big picture into pieces, sequence them and do them.
So step one: renounce all the curses you spoke over yourself (and the ones other people spoke also) saying that you don’t have the capacity to . . . (fill in the blank.)
Step two: make a concise list of all the things I noted above, but put them in the language of your own world. In other words, instead of going to Fox News, you might just ask your teenager why he got such a bad grade on his report. You will get the same level of see-through spin. You need to make the list, because when you are having initiation paralysis, you won’t be able to remember these things or find the article in the blog.
Step three: glue the list with Super Glue to something that has not moved in the last five years. You and I both know that your right-brained propensities make small lists highly prone to disappearing into the morass, the moment you need them.
Step four: get your favorite comfort food and go relax in your special day dreaming place, secure and content in the fact that you now have a solid gear shift for your transmission, and your left brain skills (WHICH YOU DO HAVE!) will never be as elusive as before.
To be continued.
Copyright February 2011 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim