Maybe it’s a personality flaw, I don’t know, but I tend to take on too many projects at once. And it’s not a case of “I’m going to do A and B and C and D and E all at once!” I start off with A, and then notice I’ve got a little free time. So I add B. And then it goes on until I’m overloaded.
The thing is that I’m like a frog in a pot, not noticing the water is getting warmer until it’s already boiling. And then I die. At least it feels like I’m dying…
I’ve done the same thing with my budgeting in the past, but that’s a story for another post. And I’ll get it it, because it’s worth talking about.
But right now, I want to focus on working too much. I’m 36 right now, and I have a beard that is 1/3 gray. I have gray temples, and the same thing on the back of my neck. My left arm is littered with gray. Over the years, I’ve let this happen and watched my stress levels go through the roof. Or at least out the top of my head.
When I look at my project workload, each individual item doesn’t look very bad. But when you stack them all together, there aren’t enough days in the week to get everything done. One of my projects is a killer, but it’s my work project (for my day job), so I can’t push it off. I’ve got to code through all of the issues that come up, because my income might drop off all of a sudden if I just stop working.
Can’t let that happen!
So I’ve started to cut out other things. I put all of my writing projects on hold. I stopped working on this software idea I was kicking around. At first glance, this might sound like a good thing. When you’re overloaded, you’ve got to cut back. But that didn’t help because I also cut out things that everyone needs.
I stopped exercising. I stopped watching movies. I stopped gaming. I stopped reading books for fun. I got so stressed that I cut out the activities that managed my stress. All I was left with was my work project, the few other things I had on my plate, and a bucket full of stress.
When I wasn’t working, I was thinking about the work I had to do. Worrying about it. Letting it get to me.
Even though I started cutting things out, they were all the wrong things. Humans aren’t built to work all the time, after all. And it started tearing me down, a little at a time.
Now I’m stepping back and getting perspective. It’s funny how some people can’t see the trouble they’re walking into, and that I’m one of those people.
I’m getting better about it, and this time I’ve caught on before it became a real problem. Maybe that means I’m recognizing when I’ve taken on too much, or maybe the gray hair comes with a little added wisdom.
And why am I telling you all of this? It’s because I’ve seen this behavior before, in others. I’ve watched people take on too much, get too stressed about it, but then I stop paying attention.
And before I start rambling, I’ll bring this to a close. We’re not robots, so make sure you don’t act like you can work constantly. Keep your workload light at all times, and don’t forget to have fun as much as possible.