Jason Alba, founder of Jibber Jobber, and I have something in common: We have a complicated relationship with our lawn mowers--and have only recently found peace with them.
Most of the time, I don't have any need for a lawn mower. After all, I live in Manhattan--and I would probably be issued with some sort of citation if I tried to use one where I live on the Upper West Side or in Riverside Park. But, I'm working remotely from New England for three weeks and have been reunited with my lawn mower in the process.
My lawn mower and I haven't spent any time together since the summer of 2005, and that summer it wasn't exactly quality time. The yard I mow is rather uneven has rich native soil, and includes rocks, a girl-made ditch, and an occasional mini-stream after it rains diverse terrain. In the past (when I spent summers in New England on a full-time basis), I was very good at putting off mowing the yard, and when I did I could only deal with it in spurts. I might mow the slightly soggy ground backyard first, before moving onto the annoyingly deceptive gently sloping hill in the side yard. Either way, I always took a break as I mowed--and more frequently than not--this break was self-imposed when the mower cut off or I flooded it with gas. The mower had a habit of dying stalling out, even though it was practically brand new. I took it back to Sears once for repair, and the kind repair staff suggested that I might not be very good at it try again as they could not find any errors.
Like Jason Alba, I hated my lawn mower, and I really dreaded it. After four or five bad afternoons, I picked up the phone and called a lawn care service. As I always say, it is good to know your strengths--and mowing clearly wasn't one of mine.
Fast forward four years, and I find myself in the same yard with very quick growing grass. The first week, a house guest was kind enough to volunteer. But after three days of rain last week and a healthy dose of sun, I found myself with a new crop of grass--and I was out of excuses.
To my amazement, I started it up, and it purred. I decided to keep a good thing going, and so I resolved to try something new: No breaks. It cooperated over rocks, bumpy ground and falling pine cones my varied terrain. It didn't stall out, and I finished in 45 minutes--instead of the hour and a half it used to take me.
Jason found that all his lawn mower needed was a few minutes of care and attention; I found that mine had simpler needs--it merely needed me to let it do what it was supposed to do without stopping. And here's where I find the moral in this adventure: time management. When I allowed myself to stop and take breaks in between my dreaded lawn mowing work, the lawnmower choked I stalled--and had a harder time finishing what I needed to do.
My lawnmower experience reminded me of a conversation I once had with one of my favorite people of all time a former colleague, the late Mary Morris Heiberger (co-author of the Academic Job Search Handbook). Mary loved to write and was a prolific writer, but occasionally she procrastinated had a hard time getting started.
Mary's trick to overcome writer's block: Take ten minutes and force yourself to do the thing you are putting off. Let yourself stop after ten minutes. She said, "most of the time, I keep going...because it's getting started that can be the hard part."
Do you have any tales of struggles similar to the ones I've had with my lawnmower? What gets you unstuck? Share.