11 Jan

No Pressure

Banner: running in the snowI’ve been told that I am ambitious and having two day jobs and a third on the way, as well as my writing and game designing, I concede that there might be something in that.

There’s nothing wrong with doing lots of things all at once, as long as it’s fun. Everyone is happy, right?

Not quite.

The thing is that you can stress out only for so long. And I’ve been stressing out a little bit too much, to the point where I had to go to the doctor, and have him tell me “slow down or the world will slow you down.” Meaning that my brain and body are breaking, because we’re not made for stressing out for extended periods of time.

I didn’t feel that stress.

I felt a lack of time, and I still wouldn’t mind having another say six or ten hours to spare each day. But I didn’t feel that things were going badly, because things were going really, really good on all fronts and I was having fun. I liked work. I liked my family. I liked my life.

Yes, I worked like crazy, being active from 6:30 in the morning to 21:30 in the evening. That’s six am to ten pm, or “the entire day without breaks” of those us who don’t use the American time format.

In the end, something had to give, and that’s something was me.

See, in the battle between time and health, health always loses. Always.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you have done if you don’t have your health. Your health is the basis of everything you can do. Meaning that when you have the trade-off between time and health, you must give health its due.

I hadn’t been doing that. The effect is that I need to restructure my life. I need to restructure how I do things and when I do them. And I need to scale down.

I can’t be as ambitious as I’ve been.

That is hard when you’ve tied your identity and your sense of worthiness to the things that you accomplish. I freely admit that I’ve done that, which as moved me toward my goals of being a writer, and of being successful, but there is always a price.

Because when you slow down, your sense of self-worth suffers.

If you can’t work at 100% efficiency. If you can’t put out new solutions and new stories and put dinner on the table, all at once.

That’s where you have to look at your schedule, and make sure that at every point, you have spare capacity.

Take this blog for example. It’s been going great. I’ve been writing blog posts, at a pace of two or three per week. I’m not posting them. I’m just collecting them in a big pile. Because I need a buffer in order to take the pressure off. If I have two weeks where I simply don’t feel like writing a blog post, I need to know that it’s fine. Nothing bad is going to happen.

That’s something I can do to lessen the pressure. Because stress is pressure. It can be good, sometimes, as long as you’ve got the spare capacity to rest. If you don’t, you need to manage your pressure.

I can do that with this blog. I can’t do that with my writing, or my family. It’s not like I can feed my kids ten kilograms of macaroni-and-cheese, then abandon them for two weeks. They need a little bit of my time every day.

I can buffer my day job by talking to my boss, but I can’t buffer my writing. If I don’t write fiction I become cranky. I become sad. I can’t take away writing in order to generate extra capacity. I need to write a little bit every day. I need to be writing just as I need to work out all the time.

You can’t go to the gym and work out for 10 hours one day, and then nothing for six months. It doesn’t work that way. Same with fiction for me.

Therefore, In order to be able to write with zero pressure. I have to remove that pressure from other parts of my life. Some, you can’t touch, like family time. You need to take care of your kids. You need to take care of your spouse. Maybe your parents, depending on how old they are.

That’s another no spare capacity area.

You can’t twist, all the dials, only some of them. And therefore, when you twist those dials that you can twist, you have to put your expectations at such a low level that they can handle shifting capacity to areas where you can’t lower your expectations.

You have to have ridiculous amounts of spare capacity in some areas to bleed pressure away from other areas. Because your goal in the end is to have zero pressure.

Not negative pressure, where you have nothing to do, and you’re feeling bad because of that. Not too much pressure, where the world is moving you instead of you moving the world.

Zero pressure. Balance. Not too much, not too little. Net zero.

Therefore, you need to find the areas that you can budge. And you can identify them by looking to, whether it is you, or someone else who puts the limits on your capacity there.

If your kids need food, that’s an external limit on your capacity. You don’t decide it. You need to feed your kids before they have a tantrum meltdown, or worse.

But the amount of posts on my blog, that’s an internal limit. I’m deciding that.

Yes, I could put out two or three or maybe four blog posts a week. But that would put pressure on me. And that pressure would mount and mount and mount until it ripped me apart.

Therefore, I down-regulate the amount of blog posts that I write, writing a lot less that I could. No pressure. Even negative pressure, because I know that I’ll need the spare capacity in other areas of my life.

And that’s why I’m writing more than I post. Because I might need a large buffer if something comes up, an external pressure I have no control over. Also, having a large buffer will give me the safety and security to feel no pressure from this part of my life.

Then this blog will be a source of joy and give me energy, instead of sapping it. And in the end, it’s that energy is what allows you to enjoy your life.

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