Getting Out of a Rut: Dealing with Your Overwhelming Responsibilities

Getting Out of a Rut: Dealing with Your Overwhelming Responsibilities

I’m sure you’re like everyone else, going through sprints and phases throughout your life. Sometimes they last a few days and other times months or even years. Eventually you lose steam, and your good habits start to lose priority in your busy schedule. What I’ve learned is that unless you stay vigilant in evaluating the things that are taking up your time, you’ll replace the beneficial for things that simply make the most noise.

It’s been a little over a year since I started writing regularly, and it’s been a great experience so far. Lately, however, I’ve found it really hard to keep up. I’ve transitioned to a new role at work and find myself spending my free time sorting through the load of new information I’m learning each week. I’m challenged now with trying to remember why this hobby was so important to me, and if it’s still as important.

Is it Time to Call it Quits?

I like to think of my time and priorities like my home. I always want it to be nice and neat, but over time the mess piles up. It’s not always easy to make room for new things and get rid of the old. Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” method fits in perfectly here. If something doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. This mentality works just as well with your time, with a small tweak.

The things we fill our time with should bring us one of two benefits: growth or joy. There are plenty of times when it’s both together, but other times when it’s just one or the other. Be careful not be too lopsided, though, (i.e. always giving up joy or always giving up growth) or else you may find yourself down a bad path.

The housekeeping you need to do with every hobby, social activity, or work priority is to ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Why am I (still) doing this?
  2. What happens if I stop?
  3. Am I OK with that outcome?
  4. Will I eventually need to go back to it?

The golden rule when purging your responsibilities is: just because you’ve made something important for you yesterday, doesn’t mean it’s important for you tomorrow. Calling it quits, or explicitly putting something on a timed hiatus, is a good habit to get into.

Monkeys: The Cause of Our Overloaded Brains

Around 15 years ago I first read the series of books The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard. One of my favorites was The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey because it focused on the topic of unfinished tasks.

I’ll save you a few hours of reading (it’s worth reading by the way) and summarize the takeaway that I’ve held on to for over a decade now.

Imagine each to-do item you have as a monkey on your back. Monkeys are crazy. They jump around constantly and love to make noise. Now imagine all the things you need to do today, each stress and responsibility. Those are your monkeys, and each one adds to the noise in your mind. Too many monkeys means you’ll never be able to focus properly, shutting down your growth, joy, and productivity.

Some monkeys are really old, those are the tasks and responsibilities you’ve put on your plate but continue to put off. They’re not as crazy as the newer monkeys, but every so often they make noise. When they do, anxiety floods in because you know just how long they’ve been around. You worry if you’ll ever get them off your back. They’re the veterans that remind you of all your failures, miss opportunities, and the nature of your procrastinating self.

Cleaning Up The House: No More Monkeys

I started this post about me and this blog. I let my writing frequency slip a little, and in place of something that I love doing, a monkey appeared. It was a little one, but as each week passed by without writing, he became more wild, taunting me ever more boldly.

Getting out any rut you’re in is all about focusing on cleaning up your messy house, and dealing with those monkeys on your back. Run each item that’s nagging at you through the four questions above to determine if you really need to be worrying about it. Chances are, you’ll have many to-do tasks that you can really just throw in the garbage or at least purposely put on hold until a specific date in the future.

Once you’ve cleaned up those monkeys, stop worrying about them. If you decide to put something on hold, then void it from your mind for the time being. It takes practice, but eventually you’ll get into the habit of triaging and pruning your schedule. Your goal should be no more monkeys. Instead, you should have a refined list of tasks that you’ll take care of before they start to pester you.

As for me, I get to watch one of my monkeys jump off my shoulder right now. Simply writing this post made it go away, because I decided this was still important to me. Yeah I’m still busy, but reaffirming why I’m doing this was all it took to find some time for it and just get it done.

Here’s to a monkey-free life, full of things that only bring you joy and growth!

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