How do you uproot a tree? You do it one root at a time. You must be able to see the roots, so you may need to do some digging to bring them to light. Uprooting lives is done in a similar way.
Today, I did a bit of digging to reveal what roots are holding me down in London. I sat down at a table with a stack of blank A4 sheets of paper and my favourite pen. I drew a symbol of my fixture to London (a ball and chain) on the left-hand side of a paper and on the opposite side I drew a symbol of me leaving London (an airplane lifting towards the sky, presumably with me inside it).
In between these before and after images, I drew symbols of my London-bound roots. The three main things were my job, my flat and my stuff. Imagining myself being free of those three, I still could not picture myself heading to the airport. I simply would not be ready. Where would I go? I still had more research and thinking to do, so I wrote down ‘direction’ as goal to accomplish before I can leave. I now couldn’t think of anything more that would hold me back. That surprised me. Was that it? Unsure, I wrote down ‘loose ends’ as a catch-all for anything else I might think of later.
I had now defined what I needed to do to leave London, but nothing of how I was going to accomplish each goal. I took a sheet of paper for each of the roots identified and drew a map of all actions needed to sever it. I drew lines between tasks to highlight dependencies between tasks. As I worked, I could not believe how easy it all seemed.
I gathered up my drawings and put them up on my bedroom door. I stepped back and contemplated my escape route out of London.
Why did I bother doing all of this?
It’s been twenty days since I first thought of this new nomadic life. I have done a lot of thinking since then, but I found it hard to do anything concrete that would take me there. I didn’t know where to start, so I kept putting it off. Not only was I not making any progress, but I was also starting to lose morale. The whole thing just seemed so difficult to grasp.
Creating the map made me feel in control. Visualising my tasks made them concrete, manageable and less frightening. I feel confident with the high-level planning, which in turn frees me to focus completely on what I should do next. I can quickly see which tasks are next in line, pick one and just do it.
An important concept in my line of work (agile software engineering) is information radiators. It is a form of visual management where you display important information on the walls where those who care about the information see it. It might sound twee, but it works. It works best if the visual information is engaging and easy to read. That is why I took the time to draw pictures of my tasks and goals as opposed to just writing them down. The more this map catches my eye, the more I will use it.
The quickest way for me to despair over a large project is not to track my progress. It follows a now well-trodden path. I work really hard in the beginning of the project, then at some point I see how far I’ve still go to go and the futility of it all comes crashing down on me. If instead I track my progress, then I have something positive to focus on. I can celebrate my small victories along the way which makes the whole journey feel exciting and lighter. That is another reason I made this map of mine. After I complete each task I will mark it off, and step by step I can see how I am progressing.
OK, I admit. All of this might sound like overkill. I’m not uprooting the world tree, Yggdrasil. I’m merely moving my branch to a sunnier spot. Nevertheless, this is a big change for me and I find that drawing a map of what I need to do helps me stay in control of the process and feel secure. I’ve used similar methods in the past when I need to get a grip on something daunting. It works for me, and perhaps it will work for you.
Finally, I must apologise for the terrible quality of my crude drawings. I am not much of an artist. For example, the symbol for my leaving London in a plane looks more like I’m leaving the planet in a space rocket. Trust me; my goals are not quite that insane. Not yet.