Overwhelm, Revisited

Hail, heroes. This is Kristen (the 'Keene' part of RSK), and I want to talk to you a little bit about overwhelm and burnout. I've touched on this topic before on the blog, but it's really important to talk about in depth.

So where do we begin? How about the root of it all:

The Magic Formula

When I was growing up, my parents taught me that hard work would be rewarded.

If you wanted to do well in this world, all you needed was to put forth as much effort as you wanted to see in return.

That was it. Hard work = good reward. Effort in would equal effort out.

The Magic Formula.

Simple enough.

And from what I've heard, a classic through line for Boomer parents who were still impressionable during the Reagan administration and gave birth to late-Gen-X-slash-early-Millennial kids.

Spoiler Warning - The Magic Formula is bullshit.

But we'll get to that in a moment.

Where Things Go Wrong

The problem with The Magic Formula - other than the fact that it was hoo-hah created to make the worker feel like they just didn't try hard enough (AKA victim blaming) - is that it was created for a time that doesn't exist anymore.

For as much as I love it, the Internet is to blame here.

The Internet created a thousand opportunities for every person, but at the same time gave those opportunities to every single person on the planet, limited only by their accessibility. No, skill wasn't a limiting factor - especially not now with things like YouTube tutorials, Skillshare, and Fiverr. Instead, if you had access to the internet, had access to places on the internet where things could happen, things could happen for you.

And so hard work was no longer a factor. Everyone has access to an equal playing field.

All you need to succeed is to attract more eyeballs. While doing all the other things that you need to create the product, of course. And you better do it fast, because there's always someone out there doing it faster than you, so you aren't as relevant.

Doing All The Things, Or How To Become Overwhelmed

So, if you're seeing the writing on the wall here, this culture of "I just need to work harder" mixed with "the internet makes everything available to everyone so I just need to work EVEN HARDER" leads to a DO ALL THE THINGS mentality.

And for someone who is already doing all the things, this can create a real issue.

Did you know, hero, that until this month, I worked over 70 hours a week for an entire year straight?

I woke up every weekday morning at 5 am, wrote until 8 am, worked through until 5 pm, cooked dinner, and then wrote until I was ready to sleep at around 8 pm. On weekends, I would eek out every potential hour I could, usually working about 8 to 10 hours a day.

Now, this wasn't every week. But it was a lot of them. For an entire year.

Was It Worth It?

Absolutely. I got more done this last year than ever before, and I'm incredibly proud of the things I got done.

Is It Sustainable?

Not entirely.

So here's the rub of it.

Over the last two weeks, I've backed off everything. No social media. No writing. No editing. No outlining. Just me and some video games and some good old fashioned relaxing. Well, and working the day job. But I can't exactly give that up.

I've felt guilty as hell not working on writing, but I've spent time away. Mostly because, eventually, I figured I'd feel better and want to work again.

But that feeling was a lie. You don't ever just decide "okay, now I'll go back to working myself to an early grave!" Instead, you realize there's a lot of time you haven't spent doing the things you need to do, and not doing them is dangerous.

So, How Do You Avoid Overwhelm For Real?

This is the million dollar question. The thing that would make things so much better.

Honestly, hero, I don't know.

But what I do know is that I'm constantly trying new things.

The Current Plan

These past two weeks have been good for me. I got to level 30 on Elder Scrolls Online, met some new friends, gained some new story ideas (the Thieve's Guild questline has really inspired an idea for an Overseers spin off - look for that maybe sometime never), and learned how to enjoy a Saturday.

But I've also learned that I don't want to be away from writing. That I don't want to give up on this dream. I've also learned that I don't have a dimmer switch - it's on or off. So I'm going to rig my own through The Schedule.

My plan is to basically go back to my crazy-ass schedule as is. RIP me, right? Well, hopefully not. There's going to be one major change - every four weeks, regardless of whatever project is going on, I have a forced weekend off. No writing. Just relaxing.

Maybe eventually I make it to level 50 in ESO.

So that's it for me today, heroes. Just a whole lot of words about the why behind my overwhelm, and how I plan to avoid it.

If you are also one of those late-Gen-X-slash-early-Millennial kids who feel this compulsion to work hard because you think it'll be rewarded just for happening, don't believe the lies. Take breaks. Be a human being.

Work smart, not hard. Etc.

Now, excuse me while I try to figure out how the feck to do that.

PS: if you play on PC-NA on ESO, look for Vatsala Huian! (Yes, I named my Orc Warden after our character from The Unbound God. Shhh. I'm my own fan, okay?)



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© 2017 by Riley S. Keene