Last year I set a lot of different systems and dreams in motion at the same time. I had a period of intense focus and productivity. I was driven by passion. But passion is never enough. Passion is what you feel when the dopamine hits keep coming.
“When it comes to creating work you love, following your passion is not particularly useful advice.”Cal Newport 2012
When I started to feel the flame of passion sputter I was prepared though. This time I am intent on breaking old patterns. When that dip started and I felt the wolves of overwhelm nipping at my heels I wasn’t afraid and I didn’t stop.
What I did was take a step back and look at my endeavors from a new angle.
For me, the feeling of being overwhelmed is like having a skein of yarn that getting tangled. But as any knitter will tell you, if you pull harder you’ll only get knots.
Instead, I followed the thread.
The first step
Canvas in Obsidian is a very good tool if you’re like me and wish you could look at your brain from above.
To get an overview of the situation I open a fresh board. I start adding the projects I want to do. Then I add why I want to do them in the first place. Lastly, I focus on what I need to do to get it done. I also lined it up from most important to least and why I classified them the way I did. Then I wrote down what sources of stress the different areas had and possible ways to alleviate this stress.
Just seeing the knotted yarn laid out so neatly is a relief.
Now you have tangible things to focus on and maybe you even found some things that you don’t even really have to focus on at all. Working like this can open up new ways of thinking about yourself and your projects.
If you’re not working in Obsidian you can do this on paper, it’s just a mind map. The great part about Canvas is that you can use Obsidians’ ability to link pages so you can add all the resources you feel you need.
The second step
When I feel like there are not enough hours and I have so much to do and no time I take control by logging basically all my hours. This might be stressful for some people but this is very important. Maybe you’re getting more things done than you realize. And if you’re not then this is a good way to see where your time goes.
If you’re wasting your time
Your stress might be centered around thinking that you don’t have the time. But when you actually track how you spend your time you might realize that a lot of it is just spent doing nothing. That’s something you need to focus on.
Why are you doing nothing if you want to do something? This is where you need to be honest with yourself. This could relate to several things. Anxiety from perfectionism or fear of failure? Maybe you have a hard time putting the phone away after you’ve opened a social media app.
If the reason is not something you need to take up with a therapist my solution is to scale it up. If you feel like you don’t want to start because it’ll never be good enough then write anyway. Unless you’re under contract no one can force you to produce anything fit for release in a certain time frame. This is the time to do more but smaller. Start a few drafts and write a summary or some bullet points about what you want to say.
If you feel stuck in the social media loop, unplug. If you don’t feel like uninstalling the apps then go into their settings and remove notifications then just move the app further back into your app list so it’s not as easy as just swiping and clicking. Then take your frustration out on your keyboard by doing the above-mentioned drafts or by polishing existing drafts.
What I think you’ll find is that things might loosen up and you’ll get a fair amount of work done. One of the smaller drafts will probably get your attention and you’ll expand on the idea. Then all of a sudden you’ve finished it. If you feel un-funked, I suggest you publish whatever it is you’ve created. Show it off. When you’ve un-funked yourself, you only have the usual amount of hesitation. If you’re still feeling funky, start over from the beginning with a new round of drafts. When you feel well and truly un-funked you’ll not only have some nice content done, but you’ll also have a cache ready if you get back into a funk.
If you’re doing too much
Maybe you truly are as busy as you feel. The hours just aren’t enough because you have so many projects going on at the same time. There might be other engagements needing your time outside of your interests. Here we need to scale down instead but we still need to be honest with ourselves. What are the most important things on your plate right now? Not what you’d like to do the most, but rather what’s the most important? Make a list from most important to least important. Then go from the bottom and see how many items you actually have to do. Some of the items on the list I bet you could just leave behind and never think about again.
Some of them live in the in-between zone. Maybe you could take them off your mental list and add them to a physical list of things to do when you have more time.
The most important projects are those where other people depend on you. Graded or billable projects are number two. That’s just the way it goes. Of course, you can leave any sort of project but you took these on for a reason I presume? If you feel lost then remember this feeling going forward and be weary of taking on projects you won’t be able to keep on top of if things get funky.
If you feel overwhelmed with what you have on your plate you need to remember that it’s important to still keep going. You just have to change lanes a bit.
When I tell you to keep going I’m not asking you to head into a brick wall. Feeling overwhelmed is a sure sign that something is chafing in your life. By switching lanes I’m saying that you need to get an overview of what’s truly going on at the same time as you try and keep going. If you let the feeling of being overwhelmed take over and just stop dealing with your projects you’re only making it harder to pick them up.
Funks are a fact of life. It can be from a heavy mental load, it can be the weather, or just the ups and downs of the organism that is you. Don’t let the funk scare you, embrace it as a way to take a look at your life and find areas that can be improved or left behind.