Your back is against the wall. You are doing all the things you feel you need to do. But by the time you finish them, you’re out of energy. It’s already midnight and you didn’t even get to start the thing you’ve really wanted to do for weeks.
People of drive and passion and extremely susceptible to this: we follow our dreams step by step and sometimes we bite off too much to chew.
My Blog, My Life
A good example for me was this blog:
I work 40 hours a week as a data scientist.
I commute 90 minutes each way.
I exercise 1 hour each night and I have dinner with my wife every day.
Oh, and I go to bed by 9 each night since I wake up at 4 each day to get 7 hours of sleep.
So often, the only time I have during the week is during my commute.
Well, each article I write for the blog takes around 4-6 hours between the research, proofreading,
So, I felt a little trapped: Doing 2-3 articles a week, I was waking up, working, writing, dinner, exercising and sleeping – for at least 5 days a week.
I realized I was feeling trapped. So I took steps to address it.
Breaking My Cell
I love writing for this blog: I don’t see it as a chore. I often enter my version of flow when I’m writing and researching a topic for my readers.
But I also like other things: reading for fun, playing a good video game, learning new skills, exploring with my wife.
So, I started to write: I like asking myself questions, like:
Why am I so frustrated?
What would I do different if I didn’t feel obligated to write?
What would you feel like if you decided to write all the time, do nothing else, and you still failed?
What would be an acceptable balance?
Over time, I’ve found I’ve grown a very strong skill of self-discipline and self-denial. I love video games, but I have the strong will to not play a game I’ve been excited about for months.
I can deny myself for months in order to achieve a goal: that’s exactly what I did for graduate school.
But not every goal requires that. I keep a pretty thorough journal of how I’m feeling at different points in my life.
And when do I feel the most trapped? When I’m doing things for other people or goals and forget to acknowledge and take care of myself.
Here’s the 3 step process I follow to solve my trapped-ness:
- Where is the frustration coming from? Did you choose to do all the things you have to do? If not, write all of them down.
- Do the things you are doing give you the energy you need? If they don’t, can you afford to take a break from all or some of them? If you can’t take a break, can you slice out 15 minutes from your day to do something not required, but something purely you — something you just love and gives you positive joy.
- Take your break and re-assess how you are feeling.
I always believe in putting my action where my words are, so let’s look at how I did this in my life.
I started a new diet about 5 weeks ago. My doctor told me I had a 90% chance of getting diabetes. So I reduced my calories to 1,000 per day and started exercising an hour a day. But I found this started taking away all my leisure time.
So, Step 1: I was feeling frustrated since I felt like a zombie Monday-Friday. My new exercise time + my writing time left me with very little Ed discover time. To be precise things I had to do was:
Work prep and work from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dinner and time with family until 8 p.m.
Exercise 8-9 p.m.
Sleep 9-4 a.m.
Commuting to and from work 90 minutes each day.
So, I took a break from my blog.
Did you notice my recent slower pace?
I took a break to read a few books, take a vacation with my wife and write a mini-plotting library in python. There was no reason I couldn’t.
I’ve also lost 20 lbs so far following my new diet and exercise regime!
But what about other situations? What if you’re taking care of your sick mother and when you get home you have a family to take care of?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help: people who love you will always pitch in. If they are unable or unwilling — just be honest with them in how you’re feeling. Often taking to another human and being vulnerable, can be just as empowering.
And if that doesn’t work, even 15 minutes will do wonders for your heart. Reminder yourself why you are doing this, too. Sometimes we get tired, fatigued and stressed,