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Shiny Squirrel Syndrome and Self Indulgence

June 18, 2017
AUTHOR: Emilie
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I feel like every time I’ve written something lately it’s been apologetic, at least in spirit if not also in tone. I mean, really- my most recent Life Lately or even my monthly goal posts or even my lack of weekly planning posts. I’ve been telling myself for far too long that I’ve just stretched myself too thin. I have always said “You have time for the things you make time for” but then was frustrated with myself that I wasn’t getting all the things done.

It’s taken me some time, though, to come to terms with what’s actually happened: my priorities have shifted.

Let me explain more.

Just over a year ago, I entered a 10 day writer’s block. This was the first bought of writer’s that I really struggled with. At the time I was still publishing five days a week (which just seems insane to me now). Timehop reminded me of a Saturday that I named explicitly forcing myself to write. I spent 45 minutes staring at a blank computer screen before a word even came to me. My solution was to force myself to write by responding to prompts. That was successful at it’s goal: forcing me to write. At the time I didn’t even entertain the question of whether or not that should have been the goal. It just seemed like the right thing to do, so I did it. I kept writing. Posts were published. It seemed like I was doing what bloggers are supposed to do (hint: Blog).

But I’m not willing to just write anymore. There are too many voices saying things not worth listening to. When I chime in, I want it to add to the conversation. I want to say something worth saying. I want you to know that when I publish a blog post it is worth reading. It’s no longer enough to just have things churning on this space. It’s no longer enough for me.

Of course, this has come with tradeoffs. Instead of publishing 500 word posts, I’ve been publishing 1200 word posts. I’ve enjoyed really delving in on subjects a lot more in-depth, like my review of Broke Millennial. On the other hand, it takes me a lot longer to write. I’ve never been a particularly fast writer when not under a deadline (especially if I’m not particularly in the mood to write), but now trying to write more than twice as much for every given post makes me much more susceptible to shiny squirrel syndrome.

Shiny Squirrel Syndrome

I was listening to Girls Gone WOD yesterday and I thought their guest Michael articulated SSS really well. Like Michael said, I will have an idea, execute 80% off it on the same day, and then never come back to it to finish. I’ve known for a while that this is something I’ve struggled with. In fact, I resolved that this year I would be better about it and named FOCUS to be my word of the year. Keeping this in mind, I’ve gotten better but if we’re being totally honest here, and I am, I still haven’t been that great about it.

My goals have been riddled with failures and, I think, it’s because I still haven’t focused enough. Instead of setting three goals in each of the areas of my life, overcommitting myself and, in turn, setting myself up for failure, I decided I was going to focus on only one thing in each of these areas. Great. I started to make some progress. In other words, I was having more successes, but I wasn’t having enough for me to be satisfied with.

Actually Focus

I took a different approach in May of this year. Though I didn’t explicitly stay this in my May goals post, my self-imposed theme for the month was “Career.” This is why I focused on finishing up my portfolio site. I finally feel good about most of it. I love knowing that I can type “emilieburke.com/resume” anywhere and point people to an updated resume page that showcases my professional accomplishments and that people who click around from there will find a mostly-finished website that I’m happy with! Sure the What I Like, Writing, and Travel pages still need work, but some progress is better than none. I would also like to finish my Macro Data Project. Because my focus in May was to finish this site, I made serious progress on it.

When June came around, though, apparently I didn’t learn the lesson. I set June goals that spanned from bettering my python skills, working on my portfolio site, and working on Burke Does. Again, I scattered all over the place. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I have made little-to-no success. Okay, sure, I’ve read two of the three books I’ve set out to read (and with ten days left in the month, I’ll likely hit three books, maybe even four), but otherwise, I haven’t really made progress on any of those goals. A little bit on the bookshelf, but that’s it. Basically, so far this month is a wash.

Self Discipline vs Self Indulgence

I do a lot of things. I Crossfit a couple of times per week. I track my food every day. I work full time. I freelance every month, writing for three sites on a weekly basis. I babysit two or three date nights per week for friends. I manage the house and care for Bo- and I do it alone a lot. I cook and grocery shop. I make sure the laundry is washed and dry (though not as good about making sure it’s also folded). I try to read a lot (almost every day) and am working on 30 books this year. I spend my weekends refereeing rugby (picture above), helping grow a sport I love. I am obsessed with data engineering and want so hard to get better.

My state of “maintenance” requires a lot of energy. Let me say that again: it takes a lot out of me to just stay where I am. The problem is that I’m not the kind of person that will ever be satisfied in maintenance. If I’m not constantly working, growing, and doing, I feel like I’m failing. Even though that’s not the best mindset, I know that it’s how I think, and while I need to work at it, it doesn’t change what it is right now.

I spoke to Tayler about the sentiment she shared on her blog back in May and it was actually she who shared with me the phrase “Self Discipline vs Self Indulgence.” Sometimes I feel like I work so hard, I deserve to be able to do nothing, but that thought it usually followed with serious amount of guilt because There is so much I still have to do/learn, how dare I not do anything.

I don’t know where the balance here is. How do I figure out when to work and when to indulge? I tried scheduling indulgences, thinking that if I scheduled them, I could maintain them. That didn’t work. I tried giving myself “wiggle room” but what I found was that I was procrastinating all too often. Where is the balance?

Now what?

SO WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?

I don’t know, to be honest.

What I want to do is figure out a way to focus on only one thing at a time without sacrificing any of my interests and having time to do everything. AM I ASKING FOR TOO MUCH?

Probably.

Actually, what am I going to do?

First, I think I need to do a huge brain dump of “what are all the things I want to do”? I’m thinking that I might do this on Wednesday, as it’s my birthday and I think it’ll be a great time to do a reflection on where I want to be at my next birthday.

Then, I will need to ruthlessly prioritize in order to get things done.

Easier said than done.

I think that right now what I want to do is focus on my professional piece (though this is subject to change based on my brain dump that I hope to do later this week). Even that, though, has a couple of pieces to it. I can focus on finishing up my portfolio site. Or there’s focusing on LPTHW. Or there’s finishing the macro data project that I mentioned earlier. I could focus on exercism. Or there’s focusing on CRON, which is something I feel the need to learn to do next. There are just so many pieces, so I’ll have to dig into it even more.

What I’d like to do is ruthlessly prioritize by creating a list that I can just work down. This will address my shiny squirrel syndrome by forcing me to finish one thing before moving on to the next. It will also make clear what I should be working on- because one at a time- giving me the opportunity to work at the ebb and flow pace I may need as I continue to find the balance between self indulgence and self discipline.

Have you ever struggled with this?

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Emilie is a data engineer by day and lifestyle blogger by night. A Jersey girl at heart, she is currently living in her fifth home in three years, Savannah, GA with her college sweetheart. She’s learned the hard way that home is wherever the Army sends them. She enjoys eating food, cuddling with her dog, and binge watching HGTV.