Sep 6, 2014

Jack of all trades, master of none

It takes me an hour to commute to work from home on the train; and during that time I bring my laptop with me and work on a couple of things: whether its working on extra-curriculars, listening to podcasts or music, or taking a course.

I've started with this simple 10 day online course that is to help jump start habits. The three habits I chose to work on were:
  1. Cooking healthy homemade meals daily. 
  2. Keeping my home organized.
  3. Exercising daily. 
I know I could have chosen more worthy goals to try (e.g. "become a better person" or "volunteer more time to charitable causes"), but to be honest, these really simple everyday tasks are habits I really do struggle to find time to do consistently. I felt like if I can focus on getting these down, I could focus on bigger and better things. 

I realized the three goals I outlined were actually a bigger problem of managing my time.  I often feel I'm flying by the seat of my pants and getting to cooking healthy, keeping my place clean and exercising daily become impossible as well as juggling all the activities and side projects I take on. It's too much, and after some reflection following a burnout earlier this year, I decided that enough was enough.

A couple of mindsets holding me back:

"Being a 'yes' person": I said "yes" to a lot of things because I was afraid of missing out. Missing out on social opportunities, missing out on new experiences. Another thing is also the guilt associated with saying "no" to people. I know I certainly get peer pressured into a lot of things: taking up an activity, staying out late, changing my schedule to accommodate others. And yeah, it sucks to say 'no' to people, I hate the idea of disappointing people that are close or important to me. However, doing this more often is perhaps one of the best things I've done. And the people I've said "no" to on occasion; they've stuck around :)

Jack of all trades, master of none - High performers generally choose one or two things to focus on, and do so with deep focus. If I ever wanted to get good at anything, I can't do that while juggling 4 or 5 other activities.

What it means to "prioritize": I thought picking up these activities would make me a better person. I ended up really stressed out, sleep deprived, and unhappy. I couldn't really appreciate my relationships anymore, I wasn't spending as much time with family, and I wasn't really taking care of myself very well.

Lofty Goals - I think society teaches us to always go after really lofty goals. I feel vulnerable admitting this, but in the past seeing Facebook posts about world travel, going to the beach, rock climbing, axe throwing, driving nice cars, having unique hobbies, eating out all the time, music festivals... made me feel very ordinary and uninteresting. Perhaps saying "yes" to different activities would make me a more interesting person.  However after this enlightening year, all of that is out the window for me.

Going back to basics - My coworker mentioned her goals right now were to focus on her relationships with her family - her husband, brother, and mother. For her, those relationships are very fulfilling and give her a deep sense of purpose and pride. She's very happy.

I took a step back and looked at everything I was juggling: are these really activities that add value to my life? To be honest, not really - other than being able to say that I did those things; not very much. I came out tired, exhausted, stressed, and... unhappy.

The last couple of weeks I've been slowly removing myself I'm actually quitting a couple of activities and trying to determine what 1 or 2 things I'd like to focus on. I'd rather do 1 or 2 things really well, than juggle 5 or 6 activities and not feel like I'm getting anywhere. Perhaps one day if I become more evolved (read: more resourceful and mature) I can start handling more activities without it taking away from other areas of my life.

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See more posts on reflections. 

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