A Mindset Change To Banish Overwhelm

I love blogging. I decided when I started that I would commit to posting once every 8 days for at least a full year. You may be asking, “why not weekly?” In my head, that didn’t feel achievable, whereas for some reason adding an extra day did. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, or reduce my chance of success. To me, blogging regularly shows commitment. However, as it turns out, blogging isn’t only about chucking some words down on a page and pressing post.

A large gumtree with a sulfur-crested cockatoo sitting on a branch. The cocky isn't suffering from overwhelm.
Breathe. Take time out. Enjoy the view.

What’s So Overwhelming About Blogging?

I enjoy all the other tasks that go along with running a blog, such as:

  • maintenance
  • tweaking the theme
  • adding plugins
  • reviewing Google Analytics
  • implementing SEO

Yet in addition, there is still: reading other blogs. Listening to podcasts. Commenting on blogs. Replying to comments on our blog. Contributing to forums. Participating in social media.

Furthermore, each post involves writing the draft, then doing any required research, then polishing, creating graphs, finding pictures, creating a banner, optimising for SEO, running through an editor to improve the style of writing, finding a good heading, adding tags…

After our enforced holiday Christmas shutdown, I returned to work. During the break, I had plenty of time to do each of the above with no pressure at all. Not only that, but I could pursue other interests. Since discovering the FIRE world, there is so much that I have learned, and so much that I still want to learn. But going back to work has severely curtailed my ability to do all that as the mood takes me. Boxing creativity into a set period of time seems to dull it somewhat.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Now tell me – whose fault is it really that you’re feeling overwhelmed?

Back to Work – The Overwhelm Sets In

Now I’ve returned to work, I feel overwhelmed. The blogs I want to read are backing up. There are hours of podcasts I haven’t had time to listen to, and I am writing my blog posts in the few days before they are due. None of that even takes into account the other interests I have, or the yearning to build up a second income stream doing something that we love. I’m beginning to feel frantic that I can’t keep up.

Because all this is meant to be fun, I took a step back, and made the hard (for me) decision that it’s OK not to do all the things. I need to focus on what is the most important (writing and publishing my own posts), while some of the other activities will have to get pushed down in the pile. I may never even make the time to get to them (paraphrasing Paula Pant “You can make time to do anything, but not everything”).

Close up of a seagull on grass in front of Wangi Wangi Bay. Decidedly not overwhelmed by anything.
Overwhelmed? Don’t care. Feed me now. Chips! I want chips! NOW NOW NOW!

The Breakpoint

Usually I have my routines regarding when I read posts, when I comment, when I log into the Rockstar Finance Forums, when I get on Twitter. I subverted these last week to focus on getting the post written. Every spare piece of time I had, I wrote or researched or created graphs, and I made it. I kept to my commitment. And you know what? It reduced the feeling of overwhelm. Also, it turns out that there wasn’t anyone one out there with a big stick counting the number of blogs I hadn’t read (except the big red counter on my iPad – begone with you!). There was only me. I’m making my own issue, creating my own pressure.

Screenshot of Reeder RSS App with 282 unread entries

Another disadvantage of trying to maintain the frantic pace is that I can’t keep up with all the good ideas I read about. I mark something as important or interesting to read/ponder/follow-up later, but I never make the time to go back and review it. I’m skimming everything on the surface, not giving myself the time to do self-analysis or deep thinking about a topic. By constantly hurtling forward at breakneck speed, I’m missing out on the chance to read and digest and learn. If I balanced my time better, I would free up some thinking space.

A Change of Mindset

This weekend I went to visit a friend from school. Beforehand I was worried about how I would fit in all my self-imposed tasks if I were away for the whole weekend. Luckily, I woke up to my own crazy thinking, helped by the fact that I want to spend more time with friends and family this year. I decided that I would switch off while we were up there. No blogs. No podcasts. Not thinking about money or FIRE (although once those FIRE glasses are on, it’s difficult to stop seeing through them!) I wanted to be fully present for my friend, and enjoy the time we have together.

Four black swans swimming in Myuna Bay. Serenity is the opposite of overwhelm.
Serenity is the opposite of overwhelm. Learn from us.

Even good habits can become bad if overdone (including FIRE!). There is a fine line between a way of life and an obsession. Blogging and financial independence is turning into an obsession. I have to work on finding some balance between being able to be present and live and enjoy life in the now, and continuing to learn and grow and make plans for our future.

Have I turned the corner and turned into a perfectly balanced individual? Mr. ETT would certainly say no. But at least I’ve taken the first step, which is recognising that I have a problem. Now I have to remind myself to be mindful of my activities. I took the photographs in this post in the Lake Macquarie area last weekend. They show what I would have missed out on if I had given in to my self-inflicted overwhelm and spent the weekend in front of a machine. Why on earth would I have even considered the alternative?

Sailing boats moored in Wangi Wangi Bay.

What do you do to combat overwhelm?

10 thoughts on “A Mindset Change To Banish Overwhelm

  1. Hi Mrs ETT

    Sorry to hear you were feeling overwhelmed but glad that you turned a corner (or taken a step towards it).

    I’m glad to say that I’ve never set myself blog goals because to me, that’s one surefire way to stop me from enjoying blogging! Whilst I would love to say that I will post once/twice a week on my blog or be up to date on all my blog reading, real life gets in the way so unless I was a full time blogger, I think it’s an unrealistic goal, one that would cause stress if I couldn’t keep it up.

    It’s been a while since I myself felt really overwhelmed – I’m not one to talk things over with friends or family so I tend to try to work things out for myself. Writing things down, ie handwriting as opposed to typing has in the past seemed to help make me see things clearer.

    Good ideas that I read in other blogs? I create draft blogs with notes so I can go back to them and investigate further at a later date (or not!).

    • Hi Weenie, welcome back! I like your idea of creating a draft blog post for good ideas. I tend to store them all over the place – on my iPad Notes, in Evernote, or starred in my RSS Reeder. Of course, I have a million ideas, but the ones that I really feel strongly about could quite happily live as a draft post. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Wow, Mrs ETT, what a post! I agree with you, it is so easy to become a bit obsessed. I have been making more of an effort to engage on social media for AWP this year (mainly Twitter and Instagram) and let me tell you, it has sort of taken over! I check Twitter constantly now. While I used to check it probably at least once a day, I didn’t really post much. I just sort of perused and then went and did something else. Now that I am making an effort to post more, I have seen it sort of take over my priorities. You’ve definitely given me something to think about, and possibly reassess. Thank you!

    • The instant I joined Twitter I could see that it had the potential to be addictive for me. I made the decision that I wouldn’t install the app. That forces me to log in from my laptop, otherwise I would have notifications 🔔 popping at me all over the place! I’m hoping to stick to once a day check-in at most. When I’m on there, though, I end up spending a bit of time. So many good links…

  3. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed I stop to remind myself that I’m the only one that’s disappointed in all that I wish I’d accomplished (but didn’t). My priorities are clear – family, job, then side interests (including blogging/commenting/social media/etc.). I have a blog schedule I want to stick to mostly to practice writing, but I know if I need to cut back then that’s fine. There’s definitely more I wish I could do though! All in good time. 🙂

    • I think I need to write my priorities down and commit to them. I have them in my head, but have never made a conscious decision to document and prioritise them. I really admire how much you manage to achieve! It turns out I have “Obliger” tendencies, so I tend to fulfil external obligations before internal ones. That doesn’t necessarily reduce my angst about not meeting my internal obligations, but it is definitely up to me to decide what’s really worth angst-ing about! Blogging – not so much.

  4. I agree with Weenie, above, Mrs ETT. Once you start setting blogging goals, it starts to sound too much like a ‘job’ and we know what we want to do with our ‘jobs’.

    I struggle to understand how some of the more prolific bloggers in the FI community manage to get 2, 3 and sometimes 4 articles out every week and still have a life. When I started Get FIRE’d asap, I set myself a goal of one article per week but then some weeks I’ve struggled to find anything worth blogging about. So like you, rather than turn out some mediocre spiel about my life over the previous week, I just give it a rest until I’ve written a piece I’m happy about.

    Blogging is suppose to be fun isn’t it. A hobby or past-time to do in your spare time. When it becomes the reason for living, it’s time to take a step back and ask “why am I doing this?”. Good on ya for taking that step and getting out and living the life.

    The pics of Lake Macquarie look great. It sounds like an idyllic weekend away. Don’t fret about keeping to a posting schedule. None of us will hold you to it. Have a great weekend.

    • It turns out that in line with my “Obliger” tendencies, without setting myself tasks with a deadline, I’m less likely to achieve something. I work best when I know someone is expecting something from me. While I’m setting the rules for myself, I feel like I am meeting the expectations of readers (although no-one out there is judgy, FIRE people are so supportive!)

      I also have absolutely no idea how some bloggers (looking at Chief Mom Officer above) manage to put out not just content – but so much quality content every week. Perhaps it is my perfectionist tendencies that make me to about 57 revisions to each post before they go out… You are right – blogging is supposed to be fun, and it really is. I just have to fight against myself to keep it that way.

  5. For me, it boils down to doing what makes me happy, but being disciplined enough to concentrate that activity into a just a few areas. I get happiness from a number of things, but if I randomly engage in all of those things, then I’m not building anything of value. That’s why my blog and just a few other things get most of my attention. Other things make me happy too, but I’ve had to forgo those to avoid getting overwhelmed.

    • Welcome to the Enough Time Machine, Barnaby! “Building anything of value” – that is so true. This is definitely where I need to work on building discipline, and not getting distracted by the latest “oh, shiny!” of education/personal development. Thanks for your comment, it summarised beautifully what I was trying to work out.

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