I finally figured out where stress comes from, at least in my life. I start every semester with clarity. I purge my list and keep only the essential items. I arrange my schedule to maximize productivity. I make a simple todo list. And I get to work. I should be bullet-proof.
Until a crisis hits.
The details are different every time, but really it’s the same crisis over and over again. Someone steps into my life with something important enough that I choose to say “yes.”
I get working on this new thing, and put off something else. The problem is that I neglect my time budget principle: to give each task a set time and do the job to the best quality I can in that time. Instead, I work the crisis “until it is done.”
Minutes become hours become days.
Now the things I originally planned for become crises. Each requires triage, and I am feeling out of control. The pebble started an avalanche.
And now the reason:
My world was primed for an avalanche. Every snow-covered mountain isn’t avalanche-prone. It’s the steep ones, ones that attempt to carry massive amounts of snow, and have little foundation to support the load.
Lessons learned from a mountain
- Don’t be steep. Trying to grow too quickly causes you to take on more than you can handle. Slow and steady always wins. Ask the tortoise.
- Don’t carry too much. Success isn’t about getting lots of things done. It’s about doing a few important things magnificently.
- Build a solid foundation. Every new thing requires a mindshift or a new system in your life. Get one new thing working well before you take on another.
The lesson for me right now: white space. I work 45 hours a week. I have something planned for 42 of them. I carry too much, and the avalanche is just waiting to happen.