Why I Schedule Devotional Work

Executive dysfunction sucks.

You can spend the entire day working and yet get nothing done. Either you work doggedly with no progress on a singular thing you keep drifting away from, or you get literally everything else done, but with nothing crossed off your actual to-do list to make you feel accomplished despite your clean house.

Case in point, while writing this post I made dinner, emptied the dish rack, painted my nails and then saw my post outline and kicked myself.

And then kept painting my nails, while being upset with myself, as if this was going to change anything.

I was diagnosed pretty early in the game with ADHD. If not much else, it helped me sit with that information long enough that I’m able to be at least a little self-compassionate about it.

However, this doesn’t stop me from getting frustrated if I’ve taken the steps to prevent getting sidetracked, and if I’ve tried to be disciplined (though I’ve got some contrarian ideas about discipline), and I still haven’t achieved what seems like it should be a simple task. Or, if I’ve wasted time trying to finish that task at the expense of other things I could have done.

If left to my own devices, I am not very good at figuring out how the Important/Urgent/Not Important/Not Urgent matrix looks with my life neatly sorted into it. I know perfectly well that “I don’t have to write that down, I’ll remember it” is a ridiculous lie, and I do it anyway. I spend more time overthinking how to optimize daily tasks instead of just getting them done.

Overthinking, for the record, is neither important nor urgent. But my anxiety doesn’t agree, and my ADHD means I don’t catch it and redirect like I ideally would.

The overlapping brain problems are definitely a factor in my struggle to get things done.

I have a limited tolerance for things being out of place in communal areas, I am constantly forgetful and easily sidetracked, and I have to strike a balance between compensating for that forgetfulness and learning to just leave things alone so I don’t start developing new compulsions. Everything from remembering to put lip balm in my pockets before leaving the house to keeping up with dishes to somehow singlehandedly halting the climate crisis (…well) feels equally pressing without a set schedule.

Overwhelm is immanent without structure. It’s also immanent if there’s too much of it.

When I see people share what their devotional practice looks like, the visible and easy to spot examples are often on a spontaneous basis, spurred by ecstatic experience or spiritual contact, or scheduled daily devotionals.

Logically, there’s a quiet spectrum between these two. A blend of spontaneous and regimented. Something more frequent than getting god-poked, and less frequent than a daily task.

But I don’t hear about them very often. Again, an abundance of logical explanations exist. Whatever is more common kind of goes without saying. We don’t announce every trip to the grocery store, or every time we hit the ATM, or every trip to go fetch the mail. They don’t stand out. So what isn’t typical is going to stand out when we talk about it online.

But that does have an effect on people. Media, which absolutely includes social media, influences and helps shape our concepts of what is normal.

As someone who ended up being a lot more blockheaded than I initially thought when I started doing the whole Heathenry thing, and as someone who has never considered myself particularly good at getting things done, sometimes it does get to me. Hitting the 5-year mark of starting to work with Loki back in September 2017, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. That absolutely influenced the decision to formally create an obligation, because when asked about my motivations, my answer is almost always, “to light a fire under my ass.”

Which was true! I had these big lofty goals of turning my religious values and practices towards making the world suck less, like ritual protest and prison ministry. I had sat down and laid out all of the steps involved in making this happen. And then I proceeded to get nothing but networking done.

And while projects are often a weak spot, I also really just can not do daily devotionals considering how often I forget very basic things like eating something, anything, before dinner. So daily or weekly tasks were out of the question. I touched on this, though not in great detail, in my post on things to consider before making sworn agreements with gods.

So when I made my pledge, I agreed to both projects and a few regular tasks. One of them was altar cleaning at least once a month. Didn’t matter when in the month. Didn’t matter how many times in the month. The frequency just had to be greater than zero. In practice, that often means moot day is altar-cleaning day, or during months I don’t go to moot it ends up being the very last day of the month.

I do, very often, put it off and then scramble. Just like with writing fortnightly blog posts.

But, having something where the obligation only exists once every few weeks means I have predictable boundaries around when I actually have to do something, and therefore have an easier time prioritizing. I am not constantly carrying a running list of tasks in my head, or spewing it into Workflowy and then trying to figure out how to sort tasks into their larger projects, or what to pull for my daily to-do list.

Rather, it becomes “this is the task, this is the deadline.” There is much less room for overwhelm.