Lately I've been feeling tired and stressed out. I have goals and things I want to accomplish, but I've been trying to get more sleep and that has crunched the time I have in the evening even more. My weekends seem to be full of errands and loose ends, such that it seems like I'll never have a chance to do any of the big things I want to do.
So I finally came up with a solution: Sign up for more things.
You probably think I have lost my mind, but the more I think about this, the better I feel.
Last week I was at a work conference for three days, and on the third morning of the conference a colleague and I were talking about how tired we were and trying to figure out why conferences were so exhausting. We figured it was because we spend the entire day listening to people and taking notes, which is like being back in high school, and we remembered that we were always tired in high school too.
What I realized is that throughout my entire life I've had varying levels of energy. There were many periods of time in high school and college where I remember being tired, but I still got sh*t done, and a lot of it. I've gotten not enough sleep and too much sleep and I've lived through mono, but I've always managed to get things done when I was motivated. If I really cared about a project I was working on, I would do whatever it took to move that project forward.
Here's what my life looks like right now:
- At work I'm bored too much of the time because our school is going through a potentially large reorganization, so no one wants to evaluate their program without knowing if their program is going to exist two months from now. I've established previously that I get exhausted when I'm not challenged enough and when I'm spending too much time trying to come up with new things to work on, which is exactly where I am right now.
- At home I'm trying to keep my priorities straight (this prioritization method has helped a lot), but I've found that I will still fill whatever time I have available with Things To Do. So maybe that check doesn't need to go to the bank today and maybe I could send Mike to the grocery store tonight, but hey, it's Saturday, let's knock some errands out of the way! I'll feel better! Then I never get around to doing big things, like actually getting my job coaching business off the ground, because ugggh I'm tired and Mike will be home in less than an hour and I'm just going to send these e-mails and then go on Facebook.
So it's not surprising that I'm tired and stressed! I'm spending the vast majority of my time on tasks that are not challenging and are not meaningful to me.
Also, I've been using RescueTime at work and home to pinpoint where I'm wasting time, but what I finally realized was that eliminating distractions and cutting out time-wasters wasn't going to get me far if I didn't have something readily available to fill that void with. On the other hand, if I have more pressing things I want or need to get done, I will make the time. I always do. I need to have these bigger things already on my plate before I can prioritize them.
So here's what I'm doing:
- Volunteering. I've signed up to volunteer for a non-profit organization that has a social justice focus, meaning they've pinpointed communities that need the most help and they're offering free program evaluation services to help the community leverage its strengths and make improvements. This is awesome because it uses my existing skills but I will get to see the impact of my work more directly than at my full-time job, and I will also be learning more about program evaluation in case I decide to move out of higher ed evaluation into a non-profit (which is a definite possibility).
- Regular exercise. I've been slacking a bit on my weekly exercise routine because I've let it get pushed around by everything else I Have to Do. I saw our park district is offering a 2-hour Saturday morning cardio and strength training class this summer, so I'm signing up to do that. It will ensure that I'm devoting time to exercise, which will hopefully give me some more energy, and it will get me out of bed earlier on Saturday, which always makes my day better.
- Job search coaching. I've been talking about this for months now and still haven't kicked it off the ground. My excuses are completely stupid and contradictory, like, "What if no one wants my help?" and "What if I don't have enough time?" I can always adjust my approach and/or my pricing if I can't attract clients, and I can always turn down new clients if I'm too busy. I keep reminding myself that this is completely within my control, and all I have to do at this point is start and then adjust as I go. So I'm making a commitment to start taking clients by the end of the month.
My hope -- which I believe to be true -- is that when I am busier doing things that are truly interesting and meaningful to me, I will spend less time being tired and listless. And when I have truly important projects on my to-do list, it will make it easier to recognize and postpone or eliminate those tasks that are not as important and are just "spinning my wheels."
So that's my plan! I will let you all know how it goes. Thanks for being there to hold me accountable :)
How do you keep yourself energized and challenged? Have you found a balance between overcommitting and undercommitting?