How to deal with overwhelm
I spoke in my last post about juggling many strands of work and sometimes, inevitably, it all gets a bit overwhelming. At those times I seem to sit staring at my laptop or my bass or my sofa, not knowing where to start and when I do get started I can't concentrate because my mind keeps fretting about all the other things that I'm not doing whilst doing this thing. Totally unproductive, exhausting and stressful. I have developed a method for dealing with this which I shared with a few friends and they found it useful, so I thought I'd share it here in the hope that you find it useful too.
The photo shows twelve slips of paper that I keep in a jar. Importantly, it includes things that are part of looking after myself: tidying, cleaning (clear physical space = clear headspace), walking, meditating, working out and resting. You can't work well over long periods of time without these things so I put them in here as a reminder that they are not optional. Reading fiction is a workout for your imagination, and the rest are self explanatory. These are my directions, which of course you are free to use or you can design your own.
Pull a slip out of the jar, set a timer for 15 minutes and get going. After 15 minutes move on to the next thing. Don't argue with it, just do it.
Clearly there are things that take longer than 15 minutes, and they can be done after this three-hour session, but by following this concise method I find that there is a huge amount that I can achieve in quarter of an hour that before I would have procrastinated over and possibly stretched out over an hour. This method focusses your mind as it gives you a deadline, and is based on the fact that peak concentration lasts 15 minutes. (Classical musicians have used the 15-on/15-off method for years. This is an adaptation of that.) It also works because it takes away the need to make a decision about what to do - as creative people/freelancers we make decisions all the time, which in itself can get tiring - and takes away the stress about all the other things you're not doing because you can give your full attention to this (it's only 15 minutes) and then get on to that other thing.
Right, hope it helps! Let me know what other ideas you put in the jar.
There are many strands to my work and sometimes it's hard to find a balance, but they all feed each other and each part would be weaker without the others. Here are some insights I have picked up along the way.