TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) limits your resources to the point where you must be creative if you are to have any kind of a life. You have to decide what is essential and what is the minimal amount of effort necessary to make that happen.
Between fatigue issues and only being able to hold so much in my brain at one time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and hit the wall. Then your day is over before it started. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to abandon what I was doing to get myself home before I crashed. Several times I had to abandon full grocery carts because I couldn’t cope with the checkout line.
Lessons I learned to manage my life with TBI can apply to anyone who isn’t accomplishing what they want.
Lesson 1: Eliminate anything that isn’t essential.
for many years after my head injury, If I went through the normal routines people do to get out the door in the morning, I would be too exhausted to leave before I was finished getting ready. This is a problem because I own dogs and they have to go to the dog park first thing in the morning. If we don’t go to the park, I have to walk them, which is way more exhausting.
My solution? Sleep in my sweats and roll out the door as soon as I wake up. Pick up coffee on the way. The dogs cared more about getting out than about the way I looked. Skipping morning hygiene meant the difference between being able to take care of them vs. having to give them up.
Consider everything. It is said that people spend 80% of their work time performing tasks that don’t bring in income. Savvy, productive folks say to spend 80% of your time on the 20% of tasks that matter.
I know other writers that tabulate their sales daily and keep complex spread sheets so they can analyze trends. They can tell you how many copies they’ve sold of every book in their list. Power to them.
That kind of tracking would wipe out what energy I have for writing, and it doesn’t bring in any income. I check my sales every few days and have a general idea how I’m doing by the earnings tally on my KDP dashboard.
Eliminating decisions preserves brain power for important things. With TBI, you learn quickly what saps your brain and what doesn’t. Decisions consume more energy than anything.
I once read that Mark Zuckerberg, one of the creators of Facebook, only owned black jeans and black tee shirts so he didn’t have to spend time and energy deciding what to wear.
Sometimes deciding—what to wear, what to eat, which way to drive— adds pleasure (and therefore value) to your life, but many times it just bogs things down. Eliminate every non-essential and non-life-enhancing decision you can, or at least put them on hold during times when life is demanding.
Plants are an essential part of my life, but I have eliminated labor-intensive house plants for snake plants and succulents, which do well with neglect and are difficult to kill.
For years, I used paper plates and disposable cups to eliminate washing dishes.
Eliminating anything non-essential extends to all aspects of my life, including people. If I am deep in a first draft, Facebook is the first thing to go out the window, as well as any other type of social engagement or distraction that interferes with my productivity. I won’t look at my inbox for days, and I may not answer the phone.
Lesson 2: Tools are great—to a point.
Running a small business is demanding for anyone and especially for someone with TBI. Bookkeeping is the worst.
I set up Intuit’s Quicken for Self-Employed and it automatically logs my expenses and income for me. I don’t spend a lot of time with this. I go into it every so often to categorize expenses, but I don’t sweat it.
There are many tools available to help you achieve whatever you want to do. The trick is to choose tools that will save you time and customize them to save even more. My Quicken account is a lifesaver, but there are many tools that add a layer of complexity to your process while adding little value. Make sure your electronic bells and whistles do more for you than ding or toot.
Lesson 3: Create the path of least resistance.
Over the years, I’ve arranged things to remove the obstacles to getting things done.
Web site designers understand that if you make someone jump too many hoops before they get to their objective, people will abandon a site and go elsewhere. I use the same philosophy in arranging my life.
The trick is to organize your life in a way that functions for you. this can look illogical to anyone else. I put things where I will see them when I need them.
This is a no-brainer when it comes to leaving your keys in a dish by the door, but it can look odd to anyone else, including your significant other or roommate.
My toothbrush is in a cup on the window sill over my kitchen sink. That’s where I’ve learned I’m most likely to use it. My supplements are on my desk. The bathroom scale sits by my bed, and the week’s clothes hang on a rack on the outside of my bathroom door. All the superfoods I toss into my smoothies sit next to my blender.
Everything is arranged to remind me to perform certain tasks and eliminate obstacles to doing them. I live alone (except for the dogs), so arranging things to suit me is not an issue.
As for the dogs, now that Shadda is old and sometimes incontinent, I prefer she sleep in a crate at night. My solution? I put the crate in front of her favorite heating vent.