I’m done trying to be great.
These were the words that came to mind as I sought to complete an item on my to-do list today.
I’d put together a short to-do list before going on break. Nothing crazy, just a few things to help me get organized and prepare for the next six months, which will likely be just as intense as the last.
But running errands wasn’t going exactly as expected. So, I stopped and asked myself: “Is this something I really need to do right now?”
And I soon realized it wasn’t.
“I’m on break. My priority is to disconnect, rest, exercise, and get some sun.”
What I Realized
On my walk, I took some time to think about why my mind was feeding me those words: “I’m done trying to be great.”
And the answer was forthcoming, and much simpler than expected.
I need more rest, and my resilience isn’t at its best. That’s it!
It’s funny how much tiredness and fatigue can affect your mood and state of mind. Sometimes, it isn’t deeply seated trauma from childhood or an all-out spiritual battle. Sometimes it’s just that you’ve had too much caffeine!
What I’m saying is:
It’s altogether too easy to overthink and over-intellectualize everything. Sometimes the answers are right under your nose.
Is This Something I Need to do Right Now?
While reflecting, I also recognized the value of this question.
If you’re an ambitious creative or creator, chances are you have a to-do list a mile long already. Although everyone says to prioritize, this can be tough when you have so many tasks and projects to consider.
What I’m beginning to discover, though, is that about 80% of my list either doesn’t need to be done now or doesn’t need to be done at all.
By that logic, you should only be left with 20% of your list, which you should find easier to prioritize.
If you want to take it a step further, then do as Tim Ferriss does and find the one decision that removes 100. Find and focus on the one thing that will make most if not all others a mere triviality.
But if you do choose this path, know one thing – it may take days, weeks, or even months of thinking and reflection to uncover what that one thing is.
So, Am I Done Trying to be Great?
Well, in a manner of speaking, yes.
I’m done trying to be great when I can’t even be expected to be at, or give, my best.
Those hours are best spent in a cocoon – getting away from electronics, resting, getting some exercise, and bathing in the sun. If the world permits, travel, and pool as well.
This can also be a good time to think and reflect. But only if I’m ready. If I need to give my mind a rest too, I will.
It’s one thing to try to be Superman when you’re at your best, but you’ve got to switch that off while you’re on break. Expectations should be loosed. Surrender and let go. Don’t be hard on yourself.
This seems to create more flow in life, anyway. Things come easier when you aren’t trying so hard. And maybe it’s the best way to live.
Leave greatness to superheroes. Be you because that’s what people are going to be attracted to. Being you is how you will find your unique purpose, voice, and calling. Being you is the magic that attracts all you desire in life.
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So, you’re looking to accomplish more as a creative or creator.
But you wake up late, check your phone first thing in the morning, and end up watching videos on YouTube before even getting your day started.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But motivation is an inside job, and unless you have a reason to get up and do what you know you should be – and want to be – doing, you either won’t do it or won’t give it the attention it deserves.
One productivity hack that has worked for me, and that goes against conventional wisdom, is addition.
Doing More is Doing More
I’ve shared much about focus and doing less, but the ugly truth is, the main reason I get so much done is because I have deadlines to meet, and because I keep adding new to-do items to my list.
What!? How does that work?
Look, I’m not saying I don’t cull my list periodically. Whether it’s things that don’t bring me joy, don’t help me create an income, or simply aren’t effective, I actively eliminate, automate, or delegate what shouldn’t be on my docket anymore.
But before I ever reach that point, I just keep adding new items to my to-do list. Currently, my weekly list is up to 18 items (with some representing three to five tasks each). I’m due for a serious culling.
But if I’m looking to get things done, this is the way to do it.
As they say, if you want something done, ask someone who’s busy.
And I’m busy (although not in the sense that I’m out of control).
Both Positive & Negative Motivation Produce Results
There are plenty of pieces on Medium about writing a certain number of blog posts per week, or how to set up your writing processes to support the creation of new content regularly.
Look, I’m all for maintaining a library of swipe files, templates, and references. Processes are great to have.
But here’s the thing – you’re not going to do the work unless you have a reason to. It doesn’t matter how nice your keyboard is unless you start putting those fingers to work!
A deadline, however unsexy, is highly motivating (even if it’s what some would call “negative” motivation).
Towards the end of March, I decided I wanted to replace my digital magazine with an eBook, and there weren’t many days left in March.
So, in four days, I wrote 8,000+ words, edited, and formatted a brand-new eBook. Just in time for April 1.
I was clear on what I needed to do, and when it needed to be done by. I got to work, and any creative challenges I encountered, I solved along the way (instead of planning for millennia before even beginning).
Can You Handle Organized Chaos?
If you’ve been at this for a while, then you might know what organized chaos looks like.
In fall 2014, I started ghostwriting blog posts from home, teaching guitar at nights, and working at the University as a theater tech on the weekends. I even tech hosted community gatherings, played gigs, recorded music, and maintained my own websites and blogs. I kept up that pace until summer 2016, when I started working completely from home.
But if you haven’t been to that point yet, then I’m sorry (not sorry), you still have no idea how much you can accomplish in a day or week.
If you’ve been through organized chaos, I would give you a pat on the back and congratulate you on emerging victorious through the smoke of battle.
Otherwise, you’ve got to keep stretching. You will not write or create more just because. You will write or create more if you have non-negotiable deadlines to meet and clients you’re accountable to.
People on Medium often talk about earning $1,000, $4,000, or $6,000 per month writing. Trust me, it’s easy to earn at that level when you’re disciplined and have a solid work ethic.
Don’t Forget to Cull
I couldn’t handle organized chaos forever. Unless your name is Gary Vee, I suspect you won’t be able to either.
It’s all well and good to push yourself, at least within the limits of what’s healthy. But that line can get mighty blurry when you start waking up in a fog every morning (could be an early warning sign).
So, if you’re going to increase productivity through addition, please remember to purge from time to time. Discard tasks and projects that no longer serve you. Replace them with better ones. Or begin to cultivate more discipline and focus for the projects that matter to you.
Use addition as a tool to get things done, not as a strategy for freelancing, business, or life.
You could achieve more if you were in a position where you had no other choice.
If you get too comfortable, and have no reason to stretch, you’re not going to do more.
It’s as simple as that.
If you have a lot of free time in your day to stop and think, it might be time to start adding more to your to-do list.
Because you will begin to see just how much you can accomplish in a day or week.
There’s a lot more time than you think.
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