Doing Too Much

This is Today (20/366)
Credit: flickr / 427

The other day, one of my friends tweeted about taking on too much and feeling overwhelmed. A mutual friend tweeted that he should speak to me.

I guess I’m becoming known for that taking on too much, getting overwhelmed, crashing thing I repeat ad nauseum. Hmm. I have noticed a pattern where friends start noticing that I’m taking on too much and I’m like, “naah, this is how I live!” or “yeah this week is hectic but things are fine”. And shortly after I get sick and I think, “hmm, X was right”. Vow to be more effective in future, to say no, to prioritize better.

Maybe I’m doing those things. I’m definitely trying. But each successful strategy just makes me take on more stuff, so that I’m always at capacity, and pretty often feeling overwhelmed. For example, I delegated, prioritized and then as I was feeling more chilled out about things, after the 3rd or 4th email I thought it would be a good idea to climb the CN tower. Two months away seemed ages and I figured it would be a good challenge. Of course it falls in a “hectic” week where I’m also travelling to Ottawa and a few days post-climb I’m throwing an InsufficientCateTimeException. Guzzling painkillers and being my own heater as I don’t have time to be sick right now. I say it’s just a bad week for it – but let’s face it, every week is bad. I could schedule something with a month’s notice, maybe.

Doing less is not an appealing option, though. The reality is, I love my life and I love having lots going on. I’d just like there to be more hours in the day. Then I could fit everything in, and have time to watch Desperate Housewives. For me, it’s about maintaining that balance between hectic but motivated by how much is going on – and overwhelmed. I hit overwhelmed at about 20% above impossible. Anything below 80% of impossible for too long and life becomes boring.

I think the answer is an evening a week of what I call Cate Time. Cate time involves working out alone, novels, movies, tv shows, copious amounts of tea and edamame, and not speaking to anyone (I’m always amused when people think I’m really extroverted, I’m so ambivert – it’s just almost no-one sees me when I’m on an introverted phase). I need it to function socially, and to be creative. In my feedback for this quarter one of my colleagues suggested that I start blocking off “make time” in my calendar. I used to do that. It didn’t work for me, as what I need to see in my calendar is blank space – whitespace. I need it to function, and so I make sure it’s there during working hours, or I change my working hours to find it. I just haven’t been doing that in the evenings lately.

Perhaps fortunately, a snow storm scuppered my plan for Sunday and I got a personal snow day. There was no edamame, and no gym (sore throat). But there was a lot of tea, several books, and a good amount of whitespace. Things seem surmountable, again.

Ideas

  • Stop borrowing from my Cate Time. It’s important. If I’m busy four nights during the week, I’m busy all week.
  • Crazy idea –  allocate a week a month where I don’t agree to do anything that is not being a software engineer. I.e. no lunches, no events. I’ll add an event that says “DNS – Cate is anti-social this week”.

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