Some people have questioned both why I have two major projects going on simultaneously in my life, and also how I manage to ‘do it all’. It’s not easy, but I’ve figured out some tricks that have helped me to manage both tasks while also having a ton of fun along the way, and maintaining my sanity.
As many of you know, aside from my work as a coach/speaker/podcaster I am also the founder of a nonprofit which seeks to build the first residential school in Chicago for inner city youth. While at first glance those two projects can seem like they have nothing to do with each other, to me they are two separate pillars that hold up my greater mission which revolves around supporting and inspiring a million people to life their most fulfilled and passionate life.
My adult clients fit with my greater mission because I’m able to work with individuals whose life may look great on paper, but there are some missing holes within their life that are causing them to feel a sense of dissatisfaction or as if something is missing. On the other hand, the teenagers we are building the school for often don’t even have their basic needs met. As a result of being hungry, living in poverty, and often being exposed to abuse, neglect, violence, and trauma on a regular basis, they need to have those basic needs provided for before they can move to the next level where they can work toward personal fulfillment and a life they love.
I will admit it can, at times, be massively challenging having these two huge projects going on at once, even though they fit together like two perfect puzzle pieces to allow me to feel like my best self. I often go through cycles where my attention is almost entirely focused on one of the two projects and the other takes the back burner, and then inevitably my attention will later shift and I will focus intently on the other. I’m rarely in a state where I am giving 50% of myself to both projects, but rather I’m always completely in flow state where I am 150% focused and fired up about the task at hand.
While it wouldn’t work for everyone, for me I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if you don’t have two big projects going on simultaneously as I do, you’ve probably been in a place where you’ve been so focused on a project that you’re teetering on the edge of feeling so in tune with your work that you could practically fly like the Red Bull guy, but being dangerously close to getting burned out or getting sick from working so passionately and intensely. I’ve learned a few things along my crazy journey and I’ll share some of my favorite tips with you in hopes that they can help you to maintain some semblance of ‘balance’ during those exciting yet chaotic times!
1. Above all, you must take care of yourself. My #1 core value is what I call “vibrancy” which to me involves feeling alive and energized in both mind, body, and spirit. This means that even during those times when I throw myself into my work, I always make sure to prioritize a healthy diet and time for yoga and meditation. It’s also incredibly important to make sure to fit in exercise on a daily basis, which not only keeps your endorphins firing but I also think exercise is a great catalyst for creativity.
2. Build in flex time throughout each day and ideally, also throughout the week. One of my favorite productivity tips is to take some time at the beginning of each year to look at your calendar for each month of the upcoming year and to choose at least one or two days a month to be “flex days”. On these days, you block off the entire day on your calendar meaning no calls, no clients, nothing scheduled that day. Many projects inevitably take longer than we anticipate, and they flex days will feel like a magical gift from the universe when you are in the middle of a time sensitive project and then you realize you have a built in flex day coming up so that you’ll have nothing to do but to focus on the task at hand. If a flex day rolls around and you do not have an urgent pressing project, I highly recommend using these flex days as mental health days. In fact, I also encourage you to build in as many mental health/self care days throughout the year as you possibly can. At first glance it may seem frivolous but you’ll be much more centered, creative, and productive as a result, I promise!
3. Surround yourself with incredible, positive people. This is important for everyone at all times of their life, and I preach about this often. But it’s especially crucial when you are going through a nose-to-the-grindstone stage. You need to make a conscious effort to be around people who inspire you, will help you brainstorm and bounce around ideas, and who can also give you a sense of perspective when you hit obstacles.
4. Figure out how to prioritize, and skip the things that can wait. One of my biggest ‘flaws’ that I wish I could easily fix is that I always want to tackle the small tasks on my list before focusing on the big VIP project. My mind loves to be able to totally dive into a project and to focus with 100% of myself, which is easier when all of the little ancillary tasks have been completed and crossed off my list. But I’m working really hard to reverse this habit and to focus on the most important tasks first and to realize that the smaller tasks will get done eventually, and to be ok with that. Otherwise, it’s far too easy to spend the bulk of your day focusing on those tiny tasks (email, I’m talking to you!) and to let the entire day slip by without you having had the time to focus on your most important project.
5. Celebrate the small wins and successes along the way. This is huge! I recommend making this a regular practice on a daily basis, but it’s especially important when you are working on a big project that is taking up a lot of your time and energy. It can be so overwhelming to be knee deep into a big project – for example what I’m doing with my nonprofit is literally going to take 3-4 years until I see real “results”. So rather than going through each day feeling as if I’m a million steps away from the end goal, I give myself credit for each of the small wins throughout the day. This can be done by verbally giving yourself credit (yes, say it out loud!) or writing them down in a “celebration journal”.
Which of these tips resonated the most with you? Before you leave this post to move on with your day, make a conscious effort to decide what is at least one action step you can take this week to put this strategy into place in your life!
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