Mailing It In – Day 29

I hate doing anything and feeling like I’m “mailing it in.” The idiom doesn’t have a specific definition, but some include:

to stop caring about a task or event before the task is complete. To not care anymore and mail it in (urban dictionary).

The phrase refers to the act of performing a task or job with the minimal amount of effort required to satisfy the person who has hired you to do the work. But that’s not all. To “mail it in,” there has to be an understanding (express or implied) that the performer of the task is capable of better quality work than what is being delivered (uncyclopedia.wikia.com).

To perform a given task, duty, or activity with little or no attention, effort, or interest; to do something perfunctorily (thefreedictionary).

I came into tonight without a plan. I tried for hours to come up with something to write about, and here I am. The frustrating part is that I didn’t really do anything of circumstance today. If not for this project, I probably wouldn’t have ended up writing tonight. The most frustrating part of this is that I kept myself from being able to do what I enjoy and create something, in many ways because I was doing other random junk.

So often, I feel like mailing it in comes with a lack of preparation. Whether it was on some school assignment or in trying to do something musically or while playing sports (or tonight), there are times when I know I could have done better if I’d taken more time to prepare properly. Mailing it in is different from being unprepared, but is can be a side effect of that lack of preparedness. Take the Uncyclopedia definition from above. The underlying connotation of mailing it in is that a person is capable of better quality than what was being delivered. Sometimes, a person can be underprepared, but couldn’t have provided some grand performance of the task at hand even if they had been. Sometimes, a person can be unprepared but still perform a task at the highest level possible at the time.

Personally, mailing in a task often happens when I find myself disinterested in the task. In many more cases, mailing in a task comes as the result of procrastination and poor planning. This is why I experience as much frustration as I do; these are things that I do have control over, yet I still find ways to keep myself from as high of a level as I would like to be at in whatever task I’m doing.

Another frustration that comes to me in these situations, especially when I was in school, is when I would still be rewarded on something that I mailed in. I could write A- to A level papers in two or three nights that I didn’t like and knew I could have done much better on had I given myself the time. I always felt like whoever was grading whatever assignment I was turning in should have graded based on how I felt about the paper when it came to things I mailed in.

Even with these blog posts, I’ve found the ones I like the most and would consider the best are the ones I took the most time and care on. This isn’t surprising at all, which is why pushing myself more and more will (hopefully) lead me to making decisions that will allow me to create the best content possible.

Perhaps this is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned with regards to mailing tasks in: the entire process of mailing it in is a growth killer. Want to be sure that you won’t grow or won’t learn something? Mail in whatever you’re doing – job, school, hobby, pretty much anything you can think of. Completing the minimum amount necessary of any task will complete the task, but there is a cap on how much you can learn and grow in the process.

This is why, just before I started this project, I realized I didn’t really know what hard work meant or could mean. In my mind, I had put in hard work on many different things, including my creative endeavors. However, reflection (and the amount and quality of things I’ve published or posted) showed that this was not the case; or, at the very least, was not the case on a consistent level. There is a focus that needs to be developed and an effort level that needs to be achieved to reach the highest potential we have in any given task.

For me, in this moment, that leads me to one question; what does this look like for me right now? How do I avoid continually mailing in projects, especially when I know I mailed something in even when it isn’t obvious to others? The answer is (for the moment, anyway) that I need to develop the habits that lead to high level and high quality production. In my case, I know that I have a high work ethic and am able to complete tasks at a high level when I set my mind to it and apply myself. I’ve had many instances where I knew that I probably wasn’t the best at something, but I always wanted to be known as the hardest working. Everything I’m working on now falls into that category; now, I need to continue to hold to that motivation moving forward.

As mentioned yesterday, I am currently between jobs, so I have a bit more freedom for a short amount of time here to define what this looks like now, and what this looks like when I’m once again employed. No matter what happens, my goal is to not stop working or thinking or creating with the understanding that continuing to create continues to spawn creation. Hopefully the quality of what I’m producing will also continue to grow as I continue creating. As with many things, though, much of this growth (or lack thereof) will only be apparent through hindsight.

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