Recovering from Setbacks

It finally happened — I overcommitted.

I thrive on driving the throttle right to the edge, week in and week out. I despise the word ‘busy’, so I don’t use it, but on balance, I’m not sure what people generally do with downtime, so I fill it with things: pet projects, occasional contract work, blog posts. Like you do. (Right?)

Then, a member of the team I run at my day job departed. The added mental effort and extra hours of covering part of his workload while looking for a replacement pushed me past some kind of threshold. Obviously this is in no way his fault, but upsetting the delicate equilibrium was enough to topple the house of cards.

Everything suffered: Valour is falling behind schedule, Short Story RPG is way behind schedule, a contract I’d taken on for a friend isn’t getting bugs fixed, important business paperwork for Mobility on Demand is late, this blog is over a month without a post, CrossFit kept getting cut from the weekly schedule, … 😐

The onset was insidious, and the actual feeling of overwhelm was a seriously lagging indicator of the problem. The tasks piled up to the point of analysis paralysis choosing which task to work until everything ground to a halt. The most obvious symptom were flagging CrossFit scores. Gym-mates I used to compete with head to head were clocking in far ahead of me, and my benchmark workouts and lifts were all regressing. I PR’d three things during The Open, and I’m nowhere close to repeating those now.

And the most embarrassing part? I even wrote an article about the hazards of overcommitting a few months back.

Now that I’m pretty sure it’s not getting any worse, I’m doing what I can to actively combat it. I’ve started saying “No” to all sorts of new things. A friend who is working on a project I’m really excited for asked if I’d be interested in taking on the tech side, and (luckily for both of us) he asked just as I was realizing how deep underwater I was, so I declined. A code bootcamp graduate approached me at a Boulder Startup Week event and asked if we could set up some kind of mentorship arrangement. While that’s something I’m extremely keen on, I knew I’d only end up disappointing both of us.

Once I’d managed to stanch the bleed of available commitment energy, I still had to get back on top of things. Using a piece of advice from seanwes and some intentionality around my schedule; deciding what to do ahead of time, and putting it on the calendar, including leisure and downtime scheduled on purpose, instead of just doing it; I’m starting to make progress. The scheduling piece is exceptionally hard for me, since one of the best ways I’ve found to make my ADD flare and destroy my focus is to decide I have to work on something specific. (Sometimes… but not other times… ugh.)

It feels as if the minima has passed, and things are back on the upswing. The Crossfit scores, which are the measurable and repeatable data points where this downspiral has been the most obviously, aren’t reflecting it yet, but they’re starting to feel better. And the blog drought is over. Back to the regularly-scheduled programming!