I started multiple side projects over the last couple months, but have launched none. I’m building a website for my son’s Cub Scout Pack. I started a simple web application to track my progress cycling towards my century (a 100 mile ride) goal. I scrapped and restarted my Europe Travel Planning web app. I started to build a job scraper to help pull remote web jobs from big job boards.
I started cycling to improve my fitness and lose the weight I’ve gained over the past 15 years. I was doing so daily, but have recently lost momentum and started to put weight back on. My motivation to start back up has decreased due in part to the clod weather now, but more so to the state of mind I currently find myself in.
Work is becoming more of a time and energy suck. I am becoming less and less motivated to ‘show up’ and focus while working on my day job projects. Every day is a struggle not to walk away from my 9-5 and focus 100% of those working hours on my side projects. It would be a great weight off my shoulders to do this, but that small part of me that still hears society’s voice saying, “Go to school. Get a job working at a good company. Work until you’re 65. Enjoy your retirement when your old.”, makes me feel guilty for wanting to walk away from a steady job when so many people are unemployed. I fear feeling like a failure (or at least being perceived as one) if I leave a good job to pursue what others see as a huge risk and pipe-dream.
Important parts of my personal life have have been shaken up and have thrown me into a tailspin. My current situation makes it very difficult for me to focus on any single thing. I find my mind wandering when I should be focused on work and other tasks. Each morning I plan to improve the situation, and each night I wonder how the day went by so fast and how I did not move forward with any goals or changes. To say I am at a low point is an understatement. My mental and physical health have deteriorated over the past several weeks. This makes moving forward in a productive manner more difficult than it would otherwise be.
There are so many things competing for my daily attention, so many competing priorities and responsibilities:
- fun with my kids’
- house chores and projects
- day job
- side projects
Some of the above obviously are more of a priority than others, but each takes up precious hours during the day. I have, more often than not, been guilty of overworking, whether on my day job projects or side projects. When I do this, by my actions, I am telling those closest to me that they are less of a priority or my health is less of a priority. I don’t want to continue to do this, but with limited hours in the day, how do I focus on everything that are 1. important to me, and 2. need to be done each day?
Where do I find the time?
My father has always said how poor I am at managing my time – he’s 100% right. I’ve always been awful at managing my time and sticking to a schedule. When I’ve complained about not having enough time in the day to do the tasks or obligations I have, his response is always, “You have to create the time.”. How do I create the time? There are only 24 hours in a day. Most days, my daily tasks add up to more than 24 hours (when sleep is factored in). I can’t create more hours in the day, can I?
Sure, I could start cutting tasks from my daily schedule, but what priorities do I push to the side? And for how long? With work + sleep taking up the majority of any given day (16+ hours) during the week, when you factor in fitness, household chores, family, kids’ extra curricular activities, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room unless I continue to let these priorities deteriorate. I’ve done that, I don’t want to continue to let the things I hold important to myself deteriorate any longer. But I also, don’t want to continue to fail at completing side projects. I need to find a simpler ay to “create the time” for everything, without letting relationships and health fall to the wayside.
There’s a sense of hopelessness I feel when I think of what I want to achieve and complete – both personally (a good husband, father, friend, brother) and as a solo maker. I look at all the chores and projects I have pending and unfinished, get very overwhelmed at the sheer number of tasks and how long each will take. Even now, looking at my offline todo list, I decided to write this blog post instead of tackling an item on the list.
I continue to procrastinate because of this feeling of overwhelm. Later when I think about what I could have done differently to complete my daily tasks and knock things off of my global todo list, I get angry at myself for losing focus and not completing what I could have. I pull out my todo list, review it, and feel the same sense of overwhelming dread that I will never complete these outstanding items, and the cycle of procrastination continues.
Even as I’m writing this, I switched over to the Zen Habits web site. As fate may have it, the featured blog post on the home page is ”. I spend 10 mintues reading it. Although I’m a bit more fired up now to harden my resolve and pick one project to focus on to completion, in the back my head I know I have dozens of open and ongoing projects or responsibilities that need my attention – most having nothing to do with programming. But maybe this article at this moment was exactly what I needed to jumpstart my motivation enough to allow me to just START the next task on my todo list.
Thinking that “I don’t have time for that” is a trap I continue to fall into over and over. Like my father has told my over and over through the years, if I want to do something, I have to create time for it. The time is there I just need to adjust my schedule, shift priorities, and go for it. In this case my priorities are not only becoming a solo maker, but also spending time with the people I love – my family.
Going forward, I need to practice focusing on one thing at a time, and let that be enough. There will always be more to do, my todo list will continue to grow. I probably will never reach ‘Todo Zero’. I need to accept this. I need to stop criticizing myself and focusing on my failures. I can recognize my failures and take a few moments to reflect and learn from them, but I need to force myself to come back to the task at hand. By practicing, I can train myself to maintain focus on a given tasks through to completion, even when I have negative things going through my mind and my life.
A New Plan
So what now? For now, I am going to:
- Recognize when I’m justifying not doing something important, and stop buying the excuse. Make the space, create structure and complete the task at hand.
- Recognize when I’m about to quit doing something important that I’ve committed to, because I’m feeling too busy. Make the space and structure for my priorities.
- Recognize when I’m about to give up because something is uncomfortable. Push into the discomfort and go deeper.
- Pause before taking on new things. I don’t have room for new things right now.
- Become a finisher.
- Deal with feelings of overwhelm by creating space for silence, meditation, and wide open freedom in my consciousness.
- Become a man who has the iron will to finish his important commitments. Life is too short to be wavering.
Also, I’m making a public commitment to show up tomorrow and continue my journey as a Solo Maker. See you tomorrow!