There has been an interesting turn of events. It led me to start a 7-day exploration that I want to share with you. But first, let me give you some context.
I’m over-scheduled and definitely overwhelmed!
I was chatting with a friend last night who also happens to be my coach. I was talking about my incessant need to control my days and how that makes me feel overwhelmed. I always plan the day the night before and try to follow it to the T. That by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, being planned and organized is a good thing. But when I stuff my entire day end-to-end with to-do’s without any sort of wiggle room, it gets overwhelming. Yesterday, for eg., I had planned the entire day from 9 am to midnight. Some external things intervened and the first hour and a half were gone in a flash. I hadn’t done any of the things that I’d planned. I got super anxious. Where was I going to fit these undone tasks now? Every minute of my day was already blocked out!
I don’t have time to do the stuff I really want to do!
I also shared with my friend that I didn’t have any time to really do the stuff that I wanted to do. Because I’d stuffed my days with things that I should do. Sometimes, I’d be in a flow of doing some writing or working on a course when the time would be up and I’d have to move on to the next to-do on my list. The unending checkboxes that needed to be checked mandated that I put a time limit on a particular task, even if I was really enjoying it and would rather stay immersed for a while longer. Sometimes, I’d feel inspired to dive into a particular activity – such as listening to an audiobook or a course on writing children’s books – which wasn’t in my list of to-do’s and I wouldn’t allow myself to flow with that inspiration. I was too afraid to shake my immaculately planned day. So over time, it started feeling like I had all these impulses that I never really honoured and it started to weigh on me.
The rope is too thick to thread the beads!
This is related to what I mentioned above. I was speaking with my friend Karin a few days ago and I told her how I felt overwhelmed and over-scheduled. I told her that I had so many ‘daily’ tasks that it left me with little time to do anything else. I didn’t know how to make time for diving into important projects such as writing. Karin told me something interesting. She said that the daily activities are like the thread upon which beads are added. Now Imagine that the thread becomes a thick rope. There’s no way you’ll be able to thread the beads! That’s what happens when the ‘things to do everyday’ list becomes so vast that the day can’t accommodate any important projects anymore. So it’s important to adapt the daily tasks with your current major project(s). They should enable and support the projects as opposed to hinder their accomplishment. Karin’s written a detailed blog post if you’re interested.
Making a job out of my days
Through my conversations with my friend and my therapist, I realised that I find the need to be productive every single moment of the day. I feel that if I’m not packing every single second with something that moves me towards a goal, I’m being lazy and wasting time. Because I don’t have a regular job and am still in the process of building up passive income streams, I find the need to prove to myself that I’m not just sitting on my ass doing nothing. As my friend/coach pointed out, even though I’m in this place where I have total ownership and control over my time, I’ve made a ‘job’ out of my days. If I really think about it, I don’t have to do anything. I get to do what I want to do. He told me that I shouldn’t deny myself the joy of living freely. That I shouldn’t make my life into a job when I truly have the freedom. This time is truly magical and truly mine. If I just allow myself to enjoy it, magic will unfold.
I’m not enjoying the things I’m doing…not really
In my mad quest to complete all the tasks in the day, I somewhere let joy fall by the wayside. This really hit me the other day when I was doing a course on writing fiction for children. It was a 1.5-hour-long course and I wanted to just hurry up and finish it. I was listening to the videos at 2X and found myself impatiently thinking about all the to-do’s I had left to be done. Then I stopped in my tracks and said, “Now this is ridiculous. I’m not enjoying a minute of what I’m doing. I’m hurrying through this like a madwoman without savouring what I’m learning. And I know this is a subject I really enjoy!”. I noticed that this was happening with blogging too. I was no longer relishing it the way I used to back in April. What was happening? Why was I no longer doing things because I enjoyed them? When had I morphed everything into a box I need to check?
What if I make joy my purpose?
I find it hard to do things ‘just because they bring me joy’. What’s the purpose, I ask. Where does it lead? How does it advance me? What goal does it help me achieve? Sure…I might enjoy it. But is that enough? Is it enough to so something only because it will give me joy? Shouldn’t joy be like, the by-product and not the end goal?
I played with that a little bit. What if I told myself, “There IS a purpose. The purpose is joy. I can’t predict where this exploration is going to take me. I never know what door this may lead to, what opportunities or other doors it may open.”?
The 1-week ‘Follow the Joy’ exploration
The question ‘What if I make joy my purpose?’ led to my friend/coach and I coming up with the ‘Follow the Joy’ exploration. It’s very simple, really (though I’m finding that it’s quite challenging to apply!). Here’s how it’s going to work:
I’m not going to plan any of my days beforehand. Every morning, I’m going to wake up and ask the question, “Where does my joy want to go today? Where does it want to lead me?”. Then I’ll act on the inspiration I receive. Once a task is done, I’ll again check in with joy and ask, “Where do you want us to go now?” and act on the inspiration I receive. I’ll do this each time I’ve finished doing something and want to decide on what to do next. I’ll make a note of how my days unfold. It’s going to be quite fun at the end of the 7 days to see how this exploration went!
This is an exercise in trust. Trust that my joy knows where to go. Trust that I will be steered in the right direction. Trust that making joy my very purpose will help me create the days and life I’ve always wanted to live.
I honestly don’t know how things will pan out. This is the exact opposite of how I’ve lived my life so far. I’m definitely operating way out of my comfort zone here. Joy led me to write this blog post today and I’m feeling great. It feels strange to think that I don’t know what else I’m going to be doing today…or over the next few days. Whether I emerge out of this exploration loving this way of living my days or not quite liking it, one thing is certain – that this is going to be an interesting memory to create.