You know, sometimes it is extremely hard to stop being a super-person and remember, admit and accept that we are just human. For me, this is an ongoing struggle. I am a positive person with a lot of energy and vision, in fact so much that I get carried away sometimes. This morning, I listed the projects and items I am working on (in my mind) - there were 25! Too many projects, too little time - a classic problem affecting “starters” like me and something that really needed addressing.
In case you’re not aware, here are just some of the risks of overloading yourself:
Physical symptoms: Stress is not always a positive thing, and it is unsafe to think that this is great because it aids our performance. When stress takes hold and persists, the physical results that I experience are an inability to sleep well, to relax and more pains in head and body. How can anyone perform well when feeling that way?
A true drop in the quality of your work. When I’ve had no breaks and worked 11 hour days, I rush to meetings and drop prep time for presentations. This won’t do - in fact, have you ever experienced the same? It runs a real risk of affecting your confidence if you take pride in your work. Don’t let it in.
My body and mind want me to take stress signals seriously and cut back. So here’s what I’m trying to do:
1) Cut projects
Saying no to things might be the hardest. ever. thing. on. Earth. If you thought you couldn’t learn French irregular verbs, try saying no to something you really want to do. That French is jolly easy now, right?
For deciding what to cut, I looked for a little bit of help and worked through a brainstorming technique (very fancy, I made it up, I wrote things on a piece of paper) and a handy worksheet for Grid Analysis from Mindtools.
A few of the factors I put down as important were "Am I good at this?", "Is it fun to learn about this?" and "Does it contribute to making a living?".
As a result:
- I decided to can the podcast for now - it was a young project and fun to record the audio interviews, but I cannot commit to making these regular and have too little experience in audio production for it. It's one for another day.
- Then, I dropped out of a language course I had been looking forward to - I don’t think I would have been able to do my best.
- Among other things, I committed to cutting my promotional activities for the great FlashSticks too...another thing I want to get into, but am tearing myself apart for.
2) Learn from the cutting pains
Cutting down on something that you love is awful! The projects above were exciting and promising, and saying no to them has been a shame, but overall we're after the best product Kerstin can make, not the most scattered.
Next time, I will know better that I need to take some significant time and truly plan what I am taking on. I’ll consider how many hours the new project will need, and which goals will make sense.
The question that remains is not why I cut these particular ones, but what it allows me to focus on.
3) Address the internal voice that wants me to do everything
I thought I’ll share these considerations with you because, well, working throughout isn’t what helps anybody. More people should also experience just how good it feels to focus on something and make that one thing rather excellent. No matter if you were a fan of the podcast which I’ve just cut, or not, you will most definitely be a fan of the thing I create that is the best thing I could possibly make.
Am I alone in this?
4) Make the few things awesome
As my next steps, I think I will have a wander around the excellent website MindTools, which provides an amazing array of resources, help and advice about motivating oneself, getting organised, leading others and making decisions.
I've picked my project and my focus, so the next steps will be to set goals, put a timeline to them and really commit. I'll let you know how I get on.
Maybe leave a comment to let me know if you feel the same pressures sometimes? How do you make time for language learning? For me, it's currently the case that I teach a lot and have little time to learn - but that's a balance I am happier with.