Where Logic Meets Love

Real-Life Projects

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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Real-Life Projects | Faith Permeating Life
Here's what is on my mind today: College vs. "real life."

This is not an original thought by any means, but it's nonetheless amazing to me to think about how hard I used to work, and how much of my time was taken up by work -- including actual paid work (two jobs), schoolwork (two scholars programs), and working harder than I probably should have for the two student organizations I was in. I don't feel like I can ever legitimately say anymore that I'm "really busy" when I rarely bring work home and I'm not trying to save the world every weekend. (Exaggeration. But I was really passionate about some stuff in college.) Until I have kids, I doubt that my stress level will ever reach the consistently high level that it was for a large part of college.

And yet...

In college, I was always working on something, and that something always had an end in sight. Either a paper that was due, or a class presentation I was giving on a specific date, or an event I was planning for some other date, or a safe-drinking campaign we were launching, or the newspaper's twice-a-week deadline I had to make, or any one of the many milestones I had to hit in developing my thesis. And so I was constantly accomplishing things. Sure, maybe I wasn't tackling a lot of personal projects or things that gave my life greater meaning, but I was doing things and finishing things.

Now, there are many different things I want to be doing, and ideas I have for projects, but there are too many and it's impossible to prioritize because none of them have deadlines or even have to get done, ever. It's stressful because there's no end in sight. There's no "I can focus all my energy on these projects for four years and then have a life afterwards." This is life, and the projects I want to do get all mixed in with things I have to do like shred junk mail and make doctor's appointments, and things I should do like exercise and go to sleep by 9:00, and usually end up getting worked on only in fits and starts when I find myself with a free evening and nothing I feel obligated to do.

I suppose I accomplish things at work, but more often than not it feels like I'm just putting out fires and pushing papers, rather than actually developing and creating projects I'm proud of. I do that, certainly, and that's why I like my job, but it's not the same as college, where it seemed all I ever did was create things.

Lack of energy is, of course, a big part of the equation here. I couldn't have done all that I did in college if I'd felt like this all the time. And I won't feel like this forever. I have to remind myself of that.

What it comes down to is this: I want to use this life I've been given to create meaningful things. I have ideas of what some of those things are that I want to create. And yet, through a combination of sickness and obligations and a lack of true deadlines for anything, I find myself typically not working on creating those things.

I have no answers or inspiring words today. I just want to know: Am I alone in this? Is it just the mono holding me back, or am I always going to have to make a concerted effort not to let day-to-day to-do items consume my life? Without quitting my job or taking equally drastic measures, how do I bring my focus back to making meaning in my life?

Note: It is entirely possible that today's post is just the mono and the gray skies talking. (Seriously -- it is May! It is time for sun!) If that is the case, I apologize for the melodrama. I'm feeling a little depressed today. Hoping things are better in your world!


  1. This is the exact problem that made me go kind of crazy when I was about your age. So let me tell you, dearie--oh, wait, I'm not THAT old! It does seem like a long time ago, though--the main strategies that helped me:

    1. Three Things. Choose three things you will get done each evening after work. Do them. Then you have done enough for the day. You can do more if you really feel like it and have time, but you don't have to. Write down your three things and check them off, in a clearly visible location, to remind you of your accomplishments.

    2. Flexible schedule. A big part of the reason I felt like I "never had any time" was that I was trapped in my office for 8 hours each day (lunch break was 30 minutes, just enough time to eat) during the times when useful businesses were open, so all my errands had to be packed into Saturdays. Both 8-hour days and 5-day weeks felt very long. In college, I'd sit in class for 1-3 focused hours and then move around and change focus, and my schedule varied from day to day. So I negotiated a schedule of working 10, 6, 10, 6, 8 hours on the 5 days of the week. 10 hours didn't feel any longer than 8, but the days I left early I could do errands and still get home before all the housemates and work on my writing. It helped a lot!

  2. @'Becca
    I have been using the Three Things system ever since I read about it on your site. However, I've just been e-mailing myself from work and then going through the list at home and deleting the e-mail. Maybe I should try carrying a notepad with me so I can see my accomplishments, like you suggest.

    Flexible scheduling isn't really an option where I work, but I'm hoping I'll get approved for working from home one day a week. That way I will gain back my commute time for a combination of more sleep and more project time.

    I did have a big epiphany about why I am not spending the time I do have working on my personal projects... that will probably be my next post!


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