I’m definitely in the let’s-get-this-sucker-finished camp. I like plowing my way through projects and having the satisfaction of stamping the final product with a big, red DONE.
Ideally, I would get to work on one major thing at a time and see the whole thing through from beginning to end – from first notes all the way through to the last bits of promotion – before I go on to the next thing.
It’s a dream that I’ve held on to, not only for creative projects, but also day job assignments. There is something deeply appealing about making something a strong priority. It rarely happens, however, because other tasks intrude and pull focus. I find that frustrating.
Recent developments have made me question, however, if this should even be an ideal I strive for.
When 2016 rolled around, I decided to make myself more open to different opportunities. I’ve joined some newsletter lists, followed some new folks on social media, and made incremental IRL social forays. If I see something that looks interesting, I give it a try, particularly if someone reaches out to me specifically.
I have gotten involved in some really cool things because of my availability strategy. I have also had some disappointing misses, but they bother me less than I thought they would. The thing is, when you make yourself available to do more things, you end up having more things to do.
About a month ago, I was in the final production stages of The Summerhouse and also trying to finalize everything for INT-EXT. I kept feeling frustrated because every time I tried to meet my ideal of total focus, new problems would surface with the other project that needed to be addressed. Even though I wanted to be doing both projects and I understood that they both needed to make progress during the same time frame, I still expended a lot of energy bemoaning that fact.
I completed the audio tour and then I got to totally focus on the book. Awesome, right? Not exactly. I started to get weighed down by burnout as I pushed through the last bits. Then, when I finished the book, I faced a steep drop off in things on my “have to” list. I did not handle this well. I florped back and forth for a whole week between a frenetic I-will-plan-all-the-things-and-decide-my-whole-future fugue state and a depressive crankiness.
This single-focus ideal was starting to feel expensive. Not only was I super hard on myself for not meeting it when I was juggling a few projects, but I also faced serious burnout and post-focus time blowback when I couldn’t keep up the density of tasks.
I’m trying something new. I’m working on a number of projects, but if I can decide the deadline, I’m not assigning a finish-by date on any of them. I’ve decided to work along on them concurrently, adding to a pile of first drafts that I can revisit later when I need to finalize them.
Working every day on a few projects means I won’t get that completion satisfaction on a big scale that I like. My theory is that while I won’t get the completion high, I’ll also avoid the bereft-of-goals low. Hopefully, I’ll find myself to be more even-keeled on this layered project cycle. It will be interesting to see.