The Burden of Now

Is there something you feel like you should be doing right now? If you’re like me, you have an ever-expanding laundry list of tasks on your plate that is forever inundated with new additions. The concept of what you should be doing can be both productive and dangerous. Getting down at yourself, depressed or feeling unproductive because you’re not productive can be a drag on happiness and mental health. How can you let yourself be OK with your progress and when should you hold yourself accountable?

train going by

Right now I’m going through a major move. There are a bunch of dates we’re now working around:

  • Coordinating Potential Buyers to tour our house.
  • Going away party with friends.
  • Giving away whatever we can.
  • Last vet visit for Lily (our pup).
  • Mailing out things to the family.
  • Movers coming by to pick up everything.
  • Having 1-800-got-junk pick up what we’re not taking.
  • Mrs. Minafi’s car being picked up
  • Making dishes for Thanksgiving.
  • Leaving for the drive from Orlando to Salt Lake City.

Everything on this list (and more) is happening within a 7 day period – which is absolutely crazy to me. Both Mrs. Minafi and I have had moments of freak-outs at just how much we need to get done now. On the bright side, we’ve taken this week off work, so we’ll be focusing entirely on the above list.

I feel the concept of “now” way up in my throat. It’s a constricting feeling that can easily take over if I let it. Trying to deal with this stress has meant a combination of action, changing expectations, overeating and a few drinks. I’m sure there are more ways as well that I’m not aware of. Being mindful of my coping mechanisms helps me steer to healthier outlets.

Evaluating Now

Think back to times you’ve felt stressed because of something you needed to do. Consider these questions:

  • How was the timeline set?
  • Was this an internal goal or an external goal?
  • What would happen if you don’t complete everything?
  • Did you agree to the dates?
    • Can you renegotiate the timeline?
  • Was this date a target or a deadline?
    • Was it a goal or a commitment?
  • Who could you ask for help?

Self-imposed timelines can be amazing for achieving goals. If you have an addictive personality, making it through these tasks can prove even more taxing. Wikipedia touches on this topic with a diagnosis that may be overly broad but is still good wisdom.

Long-term goals prove difficult to achieve because people with addictive personalities usually focus on the stress that comes with getting through the short-term goals. Such personalities will often switch to other enjoyable activities the moment that they are deprived of enjoyment in their previous addiction.

Whether you are in this group or not, the diagnosis hits close to home. Who doesn’t think about giving up on an activity when it gets tough? How do you handle pushing through those moments?

Asking for Help

For our move, we set the timeline around a few start dates from both of our works (we’re both staying at our existing jobs, but moving). The move is an external goal, but every initiative here on Minafi is an internal goal. Asking for help isn’t something that comes too easily for me. I can’t honestly remember a time when I needed help from friends and they weren’t there. In the same way, it can be difficult to put yourself out there and let people know what you think of them, asking for help can be tough, but rewarding.

Last year at my job, I realized I was doing entirely too many things – and none of them well. I was a director at a startup, but also wrote content for a technical course and tried to start up a new Product team while acting as a manager for a team. Realizing that things would be OK if I passed on some of these responsibilities to other people was a welcoming feeling. I was (and am) lucky enough to be part of a team where I could put together a proposal of how to transfer various responsibilities – and everyone jumped to get on board and help.

It was an eye-opening moment for me. My usual mode of doing things myself, then eventually seeking a mentor is great for learning a new skill. The same way you’d seek a mentor to learn something new, and ask for help when you’re stressed.

Schedule Breaks

Taking a break when you’re tired is one way to go, but I find more enjoyment in scheduled breaks. There’s something immensely satisfying to me about making it to a point where I’ve completed a task before moving on. This touches on Roosevelt Dashes but could be used for breaking up any unit of work.

In the office environment, putting 15-minute breaks on your calendar as repeating events is an excellent idea. From my experience, most people do not take these breaks. One person I interviewed recently even mentioned putting an hour on their work schedule each week for learning, which was an interesting way of getting away from their computer.

What to do on these breaks is as important as the breaks themselves. Getting on Twitter or Facebook isn’t a break. A break should rejuvenate you to the point where you’re ready and enthusiastic to jump back in. I know when I jump on Reddit or Twitter I’m entertained, but I wouldn’t say I’m ever rejuvenated or refreshed.

Lately, I’ve been walking Lily more often as a break. She joined me at work this week while our house was being shown. That gave me an opportunity to go outside, enjoy a little fresh air and refresh my mind.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

If you think you are being too hard on yourself too often, it may be time to sit down and figure out why. Is this an internal goal you’re striving towards? For self-motivated people who hold themselves to their word, it can be a struggle to not feel overwhelmed.

When I came back from FinCon this year, I had a list of things to do and try. SEO, Pinterest, Facebook Ads, podcasts, redesigns, email lists, books – the list just goes on and on. In the wake of that excitement, I transitioned to working on none of them and instead started working on my move to Utah.

These are all topics I want to dive more into, but being OK with the fact that it won’t happen now allows me to focus more on the move rather than trying to split my time. If I was trying to hold myself accountable for anything on that list while also moving, I can already tell I would not be setting myself up for happiness.

Battle Anxiety

At different times in my life, I’ve struggled with anxiety. The most common reason for it has been from trying to do too much. One exercise I’ve found useful is to try a Newspaper Mindfulness to help self-correct my anxiety and help calm myself down. There are many other exercises for battling anxiety – from taking a hot bath, going for a run or playing a game.

On weeks when I go to CrossFit, I’ve found myself much more grounded and less anxious. Knowing what triggers you have allows you to control anxiety and helps to stay happier.

Delaying Now

Most things that weigh on my mind don’t need to be done now. Even at this moment, I’m procrastinating on packing to write a post. But this post itself helps me battle anxiety and get together my focus to get back to work. Pushing yourself is great at times, but don’t forget to set realistic expectations and listen when you need help.

When have you asked for help? Is there anything in your life you could ask for help on? Who would you ask? What kind of break could you take to rejuvenate yourself? How often?

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I'm , a full-stack product developer in Salt Lake City, UT. I love enlivening experiences, visualizing data, and making playful websites.

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