I’ve always been the type of person who wants to do everything that excites me because it brings me fulfillment and joy; but because of that, I often find myself in situations that I’m not truly excited about because I didn’t think hard enough before committing to them. Even though these instances burn me out, I keep finding myself repeating the same cycle of mistakes over and over again and it frustrates me that I still can’t crack the code of balance and contentment.
oblige (oneself or others) to do more than one is capable of, as to repay a loan one cannot afford. *
I admit that I’m still on this journey of breaking the cycle but I feel like I’ve gotten better in the last few years at noticing my excitement for doing things and started forming habits to help me control it and reduce the instances of me overcommitting to things. It’s these practices that I hope to share with you so together we can slowly work towards being more intentional, and therefore feel more fulfilled with how we use our time.
Notice how you feel and focus on the details.
I find myself going through these thoughts in rapid succession when an opportunity related to startups and community shows up: excitement, hesitation (as I weigh in the other things on my plate), fear of missing out, and then I think #YOLO and then decide to dive head first into the commitment.
In hindsight, this way of thinking has brought me really far professionally and has lead me to meet and work with so many amazing people across multiple fields that I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting to meet otherwise. I don’t at all regret what I was able to do but I also think that there should be a better way to go about it moving forward; without the on-and-off week-long coughs, regular panic attacks, and cutting off personal relationships in the effort to make time for professional ones.
I now have the habit to take three deep breaths from my nose when I notice my excitement bubbling up. This keeps me grounded and present and reminds me to assess the opportunity presented to me. Who is speaking to me? Do I know that they are reliable to work with? What kind of work – in detail – do I have to do?
I noticed that the more I focused on the details of the opportunities, I often found something that revealed more about it, either something bad or something too good, which then leads me to ask more questions to better assess if the opportunity is a worthwhile one.
Write down everything you have to do and for whom.
I made the habit of writing down really detailed to-do lists into my personal task management system regardless of how menial the task is. Naturally, I write the task title, deadline, and it’s details, but I also add why the task is important and, if another person is involved, I make it a point to explicitly state their name and contacts to remind me.
It’s a lot of work, to be honest, and it really does take some time, but giving myself this space to just write everything out and commit myself to the task gives me full awareness on what it is that I’m expecting my future self to do. And because my task lists are so detailed, it gives me an easier time to weigh my options when a new task comes in which then allows me to really see how much I have to do within a specific amount of time.
After forming this habit, I then noticed myself paying closer attention to which tasks really mattered and noticing how much (or how little) I can actually accomplish within a day.
Reflect on what’s important to you.
It was after taking this assessment and experiencing Empathy Box during my Learning Circle experience in Singapore that I started thinking more and more about what I valued personally.
Often times when we are working with an organization for long enough, the things we value often become what the business or organization values. I had to learn to notice this and identify what I, as an individual, value and find most important.
In doing this exercise, I’ve learned to think about opportunities in the long run and what sense of fulfillment it will give me in a longer period of time. After a while, I got better at explaining this gut feeling I get when something pops up and I started noticing the details that will help me make a more solid decision – to either say yes or no.
This awareness of my own values has also helped me stay more resolute in my decisions especially when the other person presenting an opportunity pushes back. I am able to clearly state why not and say it with certainty. I’ve noticed that people respect that a lot and are more understanding of you when this happens.
Bonus: People change their minds all the time and so can you. Even if you’ve said yes, there’s no harm in changing your mind and saying no. You will feel bad at first and people might want to rope you back in, but remember what you believe in. If you’re in a situation where you feel like you should say no, saying yes will not only be detrimental to you but also, potentially, to the person you’re saying yes to.
Are you happy with the results?
Schedule a weekly date with yourself to check-in. Are you happy with where you are and how you’re doing things? Do you feel tired? Why? For me, personally, if I can’t schedule a weekly date with myself to reflect, it’s one of the tell-tale signs that I’m overdoing things and should take the necessary steps to free up my schedule.
Building your intuition on which opportunities align with what you value will take time and a lot of failures. While many people say that it’s okay to fail because you can chalk it up to “a lesson learned”, it will only truly be so if you take a step back and meaningfully assess what went wrong and how it can be made right next time.
So keep at it, stay humble, and be apologetic but always stay firm when you believe the right answer in that specific moment is “no”.