When I was working on my Ph.D. some years ago, my supervisor used to say “Are you sharpening your pencils?” This may seem a little oblique, but the meaning is really quite simple.
It’s far too easy to be busy doing a thousand things, but none of those things are actually productive. The analogy of “sharpening our pencils” reminds us that while we are doing something that may on the surface seem useful and necessary, is it really moving us forward?
Some ten years on, I have never forgotten this advice. So when I am working on something, I ask myself whenever I feel I am not making real progress, “Are my current actions taking me closer to my goals?”
Whether it’s writing your book, painting the back fence or planting out that veggie garden, if you can answer honestly, you might find yourself pushing past your self-inflicted barrier to progress.
*Artwork by Jane Stockwell, Dec 2018