There is a lot of chatter about "busy" these days. On the one hand I hear a lot of "I'm so busy!" and then on the other hand I hear a lot of "stop the glorification of busy!"
It's become a buzzword: busy. Are you busy? Do you want to be busy? Do you wish you were less busy? Am I too busy? How are you so busy? How are you not busy? Did you know if you type "busy" enough times it starts to look totally bizarre?
I looked up the definition of "busy" to see what sort of connotation the word actually has. The top google answer was "having a great deal to do" with these synonyms: occupied, engaged, involved, employed, working, hard at work.
It's interesting, those synonyms (to me) have no negative connotations. And even "having a great deal to do" doesn't seem like a bad thing. That sounds like a Tuesday. ;)
I have a lot on my plate these days, which means I have "a great deal to do" any given week. But I don't think of myself as "busy" because I guess I associate "being busy" with "feeling stressed." And thankfully, most of the time, I am happy and content with my work.
It hasn't always been this way, of course. There were times before Ellerie was born that I was bored to tears and watching Arrested Development on a loop. There were times before Ellerie was born I had taken on more than I could handle and was losing a lot of sleep. There were times after Ellerie was born where I thought I had lost my ability to process information.
Last fall, we got more help with Ellerie (2 full days of daycare a week + a few hours with a sitter at our house on Monday mornings) and more help has been the number one thing that has helped flip the switch between "I'm drowning!" to "this is working well!" While it was technically possible to keep my business going and Ellerie cared for, I was miserable. Last April-August, if you google imaged searched "stressed" it was just my photo, heavily un-filtered.
But outside of realizing I NEED HELP, I have a few things I try to do that I think help keep my work-level in the "manageable" zone.
I try to learn from my mistakes. Every time I do anything - launch a product, sign on for a freelance project, teach a class, work with person or team, try anything new - I reflect back. Was it an overall good experience? Was it worth the work? Did I sleep well? Did my stomach dance with happy nerves? If I can say "yes" to each question it's a win and should be pursued again. If there are any "no" answers then next time I have to decline or rethink. This is not a flawless process. I repeat dumb decisions again and again, but overall, I've gotten better at choosing the work that actually works.
I wait until I have good handle on current work before learning something new. There's no point in taking on something new (no matter how bigger or potentially better) unless I know I can keep the rest of the the business running smoothly. This makes for slow growth, but also steady growth.
I say no a lot. The difference between an Elise that's satisfied and an Elise that's overwhelmed is one word: NO.
I don't have a lot of external pulls on my time. This is a nice way of saying, "I don't have any local friends or commitments." For some people this is a HUGE fail. How could I not have local friends and a solid in-person support system? And the answer is, I don't know. Friends are amazing! I so wish more of mine lived closer! But I also realize that because I don't have that, I do have more time to work and more time to simply be alone. My time, for better or worse, is my time.
I believe in good enough. I want to do good work. Ideally, I want to do great work. But I'm never going to do perfect work. This acceptance helps me keep moving forward. Because I'm not caught up in "perfect" I learn more simply because I'm trying more. I want to get something good - really good - and then I want to throw it up in the air and see where it lands.
I work hard to not "dwell." I don't want to get stuck thinking about a project. I don't want to get stuck in a bad mood. I don't want to get stuck on someone's Facebook page or Instagram feed. I don't want to spend too much time on anything that sends me spiraling down. When I feel myself "dwelling" past the point where it's useful, I know it's time to switch projects, get outside or turn off the computer.
I embrace the process. Some hours, days, weeks and months I am flying. My business is humming, my creativity is soaring, my heart is bursting. Other hours, days, weeks and months the opposite feels true. I'm limping forward and bumming hard. Most of the time I'm just me: no flying, no limping. THIS IS ALL GOOD. This is the process. The ups and downs are real and natural and normal. I try to keep things in check when I'm riding high and in perspective when I'm laying low. This blog and writing almost daily for over nine years, is the most solid evidence in my life that the process is good and it all comes back around.
ps, I asked Paul why he didn't think I was "busy" and he said it's because I love my work. I asked my mom why she didn't think I was "busy" and she said it's because I'm not a perfectionist. Ellerie's response was "Moo" which I think means, "that's a moo point. Like a cow's opinion." ;)