There are certain things that we seem to need to learn over and over again before they stick. For me, how to keep from overcommitting, so my schedule is reasonable and humane, is one of those things. In this episode I share an important lesson I just (re)learned, and how it applies to the rest of life.
1) I’m teaching a half-day Unleash Your Inner Creative Playshop. Click here to read all about it and grab a spot.
2) I’m performing at a house concert that same evening — me and my ukulele, and my looper. You’ll find a link to the ticket page here.
I seem to have a hard time understanding that the expectations I have for myself, which seem so reasonable, are too often, in fact, superhuman.
Everything suffers when I overcommit, and yet this is an area where I continue to stumble.
This past couple of weeks is a great example.
Too, Too Much
September 23 was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement on the Jewish calendar, which means a full day of fasting and leading services at my synagogue. Needless to say, no work gets done that day, plus it’s pretty exhausting, so life goes best when I give myself a break the day after.
This year, though, I had no such break. Instead I was in my car by 6:30 in the morning (yes, me, a former sworn-night-owl turned morning person!) to drive down the coast to make it to a 9:00am workshop at Life is a Verb Camp.
I knew leaving at dawn the day after Yom Kippur would be taxing, but LIAV Camp is a non-negotiable in my world. I’ve been every year since it started in 2013, and precious little could get between me and camp. (Truly, you should go. It’s beyond amazing.)
The real problem came when I didn’t accept that Yom Kippur plus camp in quick succession was quit enough of a commitment for two weeks, thank you very much.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I also scheduled the start date of the Great ClutterBust for October 1, four days after camp. Clearly, I wasn’t thinking that I am human, with human needs for sleep and creative sandbox time and recuperation time from an intense retreat experience.
See, launching a program is more than just creating a sales page and opening up a shopping cart. There are dozens of emails to write, posts to schedule, technological pieces and parts to put in order.
Suffice it to say that a start date of four days post camp was utterly insane.
My Own, Darn Fault
I got OCD about starting the Great ClutterBust on the first of the month, but truly, it did not have to be that way. I could have started it on the 8th, or the 15th, or any other day, and you know what? Not only would it have been fine, but it would have saved me a lot of grief.
This is such a leading edge for me!
I have a very distorted sense of what I “should” be capable of, and yet again, I had a week of too much work, too little sleep (though I can proudly say that my late nights end at 11:00 or midnight, instead of 2:00 or 3:00am!), and too little play.
When more than one day passes and I haven’t played in the creative sandbox, haven’t done something creative just for the fun of it, something is wrong. And when this my own making, it’s a reminder to respect my human limitations.
And yes, I allowed myself to get sucked into the “all work, all the time” tornado. Again.
The temptation when this happens is always to beat myself up. Because, face it, I’m angry and frustrated at myself for letting this happen again. But I know from experience that beatings don’t help.
It’s like that joke sign you see in offices: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” This is so funny because we know it’s absurd, and yet we somehow expect that self-flagellation will work.
Scientific studies have shown that, contrary to the popular belief that we must carry a big stick and beat ourselves with it liberally, lest we dissipate into utterly unproductive couch potatoes, when it comes to achieving success at any goal, self-compassion is much more effective.
So I remind myself that I’m human, that I’m not the only person on the planet to overcommit. And instead of beating myself up, I do my best to love myself up.
This includes letting myself off the hook for signing up for yet another self-imposed deadline right on the heels of the Great ClutterBust launch.
Stumbles Upon Stumbles…
Yes, before I went to camp, I had signed up to participate in Gumroad’s Small Product Lab, a ten-day challenge to create, promote, launch and sell a small product.
I did the Small Product Lab challenge back in July, when I used it to motivate me to create what ultimately was a very NOT-small product: my Erase the Chaos Toolkit, a 99-page ebook and 18-page companion workbook.
Ahem. Yes, that’s right, this was yet another example of me taking on way too much!
As I said, this is my leading edge.
Now, in order to stay healthy and sane, even though I really, really, really want to participate in the Small Product Lab and launch my small product on October 7th along with everyone else in the challenge, I am letting myself off the hook. Which feels ever so much worse than it would have if I hadn’t signed up in the first place…
This time around, though, as part of my self-compassion practice, I am not only forgiving myself for overcommitting; I am also making a note of that tight, prickly feeling in my stomach when I filled out the form to sign up for the Small Product Lab. I knew it was too much, but I ignored my intuition.
At the same time, I am applauding myself for NOT ignoring that same feeling when I also contemplated applying to be in the studio audience for a CreativeLive class, which would have had me commuting to San Francisco for five full days of filming, immediately after coming home from camp.
So, yeah, improvement.
My lesson from this latest ride on the overcommitment merry-go-round is to stay alert for that prickly feeling in my stomach, and to listen when it tells me, “Melissa, this is too much.”
What I’d like to ask YOU is, what is your signal that you’re taking on too much, yet again? Start to pay attention to those signs.
And start to pay attention to what is truly realistic for you. If you’re anything like me, what’s realistic probably feels stupidly small. But what you think is realistic is actually only realistic for superheroes who can bend the space-time continuum.
It may take several dozen stumbles before you succeed in recognizing your limits and holding back before you overcommit yourself, but if you set the intention to treat yourself as you would a beloved friend, it will happen eventually.
I’m cheering us both on.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Life is a Verb Camp (you MUST GO!!!)
Gumroad’s Small Product Lab
Thanks for Listening!
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