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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 1, Issue 10, 11/29/07

12 Things & a Long Hot Bath

This morning I took a long hot bath. It was a last-minute decision that "overrode" my do-list (and involved some quick rethinking about my day.)

Shortly before Thanksgiving my daily do-lists start getting bigger and more challenging and they stay that way till the end of the year.

Yesterday was a full, productive weekend day. And it was satisfying: a good combination of working, playing and down-time, at a leisurely "introvert" pace. But last night I noticed there were 12 things(!) on my do-list that I hadn't gotten to. I also noticed I didn't know what to do with them - they weren't easily moving onto my new list.

I finally gave up and went to bed without the satisfaction of throwing away the old do-list because I had a new one started. The new one was started, alright, but those 12 things were stuck on the old list.

Now, human beings are unique and complex. And I could probably do a multi-layered analysis of my relationship with do-lists :-).

But this morning, as I looked at those 12 things from yesterday and the new busy day ahead of me, I couldn't help but wonder what they might have to do with being an introvert. (And then I decided to take the long hot bath :-)).

Recently I presented a workshop on introversion. One of the handouts was simple diagrams of the introvert and extrovert brain, showing the main blood pathways. On each of the handouts I traced the pathways in red marker by hand, to make them easier to see.

The extrovert path is a smooth, relatively short trip with one circular loop. The introvert path is longer, more complicated - the kind you wouldn't want to take without a map. By the time I finished multiple tracings, the "busy introvert brain" had a whole new reality for me!

Our introvert brains are designed to enjoy being busy, with ideas, thoughts, impressions, feelings. We think, we process, we mull things over. We go deep into our thoughts (and deep into our brains!) In significant ways we're satisfied experiencing the world internally.

The thing about my do-lists (a daily ritual for decades) is that I always make them with a real intention to carry them out. As I think back to making yesterday's, I know I didn't at all plan on having 12 things not done by the end of the day. And after all, I'm no rookie at this - by my calculation, I probably have close to 15,000 do-lists under my belt.

My hunch is, I'm operating under a strange and mysterious illusion that my body can operate as fast as my busy brain.

A couple years ago I had the opportunity to ask Marti Olsen Laney (author of The Introvert Advantage) what she considered the "cutting edge" for herself as an introvert. She said, "I have a million ideas to write about. I just turned 60 - I need to focus on just a few."

I don't feel alone with my busy brain. But what about those 12 things on yesterday's do-list? And what about that tricky illusion?

Being no do-list rookie, I've figured out (pretty quickly :-)) that the 12 things will meander their way into this week, on their own timelines. And as I think about yesterday, I suspect one reason I didn't get to them is that I wasn't rushing, trying to squeeze them all in. That's a good thing - probably a sign I'm behaving more like a conscious introvert! Maybe the illusion isn't quite as tricky as it used to be.

But best of all, it was those frustrating 12 things that got me into the long hot bath. Such a deal :-).

End of food for thought - on to a practical idea:

A Practical Idea for Introverts and Extroverts

This time of year tends to be busy and complex for everybody - don't be afraid to treat yourself to your version of the long hot bath - often.

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