There is a magic that fills me when in the grip of a good idea. I lay awake half the night dreaming about all the possible permutations and opportunities it might lead to. I start each day with a spring in my step. I clearly see the actions I need to take to start making my idea a reality, and I attack them with gusto.
This is a wonderful thing in the short term as it really makes things happen, but unfortunately it is not sustainable. Other areas of my life need time and attention too, not to mention mixing in some rest, sleep, and a healthy dose of fun. Because eventually the burst of energy that accompanied my great idea runs out, and I’ve learned that if I try to cling to that pace and don’t take a step back occasionally, I start to lose my joy in the process, and end up feeling lethargic, jaded, and uninspired.
I’ve always likened this process to the mental equivalent of breathing. I inhale, and in comes a wonderful breath of inspiration. But I can’t just keep eternally sucking in more air. In order to take in another breath, I need to exhale, and let myself relax and still to create the space for the next move forward.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when starting my business, is a simple tool that I’ve found really helps me to separate myself from the grip of this wonderful passion, and get some time out, a restful sleep, and to quiet that constant buzzing of possibility in my mind. As intoxicating as this state of mind can be, it can also flip and become a form of anxiety, so that I can’t relax and my mind is always churning, slowly draining my energy and enthusiasm.
The tool is simple. I finish each workday by spending five minutes sitting quietly with a pen and paper, and note down all the things I want to do tomorrow, all the ideas I want to explore, and all the tasks I’m part way through. Then I mentally finish work. I ‘clock off’ and go and do something completely different, with the assurance that I can now pick up exactly where I left off, and don’t need to keep things churning over in my mind all night so as not to forget anything.
As someone who’s had to learn to find balance, I’ve found this tool incredibly helpful. While I would physically finish work for the day, mentally I would ‘stay at work’ all night, which led to a constant feeling of stress that I never seemed to be able to let go of. I had less energy to enjoy and really be present in the other areas of my life, and inevitably I got sick, which seemed to be my body’s only way to force me to stop, both mentally and physically. By being disciplined and mentally closing the door at the end of each work day, I feel a lot more balanced, and I can enjoy my work in an ongoing, more sustainable way.