by Lisa Norman
I recently found myself stressing out over a deadline. People who have worked with me know that my body responds negatively to stress... which is sad, because I thrive on it emotionally. I've heard many of my students and clients talk about the pressure of deadlines as well. Have you ever found yourself in one of these situations?
"I've paid for this class, but I can't do the homework because: (deadline)." And the learning you get from the class is minimal because you’re too busy to concentrate.
"I can't take the time to write that blog post because: (deadline)." And your marketing suffers.
"I don't have time for writing because I need to (insert goal)." And writing productivity suffers.
"I know this probably needs one more edit, but it is good enough and I need to get it out before (deadline)." Yeah, that is one we're gonna regret. Been there. Done that. Today, in fact.
We live in a time when learning and opportunities are all around us. Content is being created at a faster pace than ever before. Our fear of missing out clicks in and we take on more than we should. And as creatives, it is often our creative energies that are lost in today’s dash around the hamster wheel.
During a recent overwhelm moment, when my body started reacting and telling me I needed to CUT IT OUT right now or I'd be waking up looking at some hospital ceiling, I thought: Who set this deadline?
Who made the deadline too tight?
Who would care if I missed it?
And that's when I realized: it wasn't the stress to complete the project before the deadline that was the problem. It was my own thinking about the deadline.
When a friend is dealing with these moments, I say, "Tell the customer you are revising the due date. Take a day off. Breathe. You'll be faster when you come back to work."
So why is it so hard for me to give myself the same grace?
We live in a world of technology. As I've watched productivity-enhancing software blossom and grow, I’ve noticed a frightening trend—at least in myself. I wasn't taking all that extra time that the productivity gave me and using it for creative pursuits. Wasn't reserving it for rest or taking care of my health. No. I was feeding it back into productivity.
I can run one successful business. I have assistants to help. Great! Let's run two businesses! As the second business's success is increasing, so is the workload. And when I have a moment to breathe, I'm looking at how I can increase the marketing reach of those businesses... which will increase the load. Everything works fine until something doesn't.
If my computer hiccups, everything comes to a halt.
And those spinning plates come crashing down.
Someone recently invited me to present for a group that I love. It would have been so much fun! But... it came at a time when I was already on overwhelm. Initially, I said yes. And then a friend asked me how my writing was going.
Writing? Who has time for writing? Oh... wait.
I'd just rearranged many of my priorities so that I could have more time to write. And what had I done with the time? I'd learned new marketing techniques I wanted to experiment with for my publishing business. I'd taken on a new client, adding deadlines on top of existing deadlines.
Something had to give. I had to say no.
The group's representative was disappointed, but I had to say no. Why?
Because I needed to choose to keep space in my life for writing.
Nanowrimo is coming. I have an idea for a novel. But... I'm also looking at more novels than I'm willing to admit to having in the "ugly rough draft" stage. It doesn't make sense to add to that pile. Or does it?
When I step back, this stress is my own. I set the deadlines for both of my businesses. I'm the one who is pushing myself. Who said yes too many times? Me. I'm the one saying, "I can do that in a week" without leaving time for power outages, internet glitches, or even just the need to move my body.
Just because we CAN do something, doesn't mean we SHOULD. (I hate the word should!)
I often don't notice the overwhelm until I find myself thinking, "I'm thirsty, but I can't get up and fill my water glass until I get this one more thing done..."
Is it any wonder my body rebels?
Writing is a fascinating profession that balances procrastination and productivity, creating and creative rest. If we don't have enough downtime, our creative tank can go dry and leave us struggling with the dreaded writer's block.
How many writers have you heard talk about creative breakthroughs that occurred when they were doing something completely non-writing related? These usually happen during mundane things like long drives. But in our modern world, we have audiobooks and podcasts to listen to while driving, so our muse has lost the time to speak to us!
Here are a few time management tips, specifically designed for writers:
How about you? What are your favorite tips for protecting yourself from stress? Please share them with us down in the comments.
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Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.
Top image by SergeyNivens on Depositphotos.
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