being busy and the end of the endless summer

endless summer

These days everybody is busy, and busy can be good if it means having enough work. But what about life beyond work? That seems to be filled with busy too, as many of us are constantly connected to some form of communication device.

I have reached the point of too much. I am overwhelmed and overloaded, and it seems I am not alone.

Attending WDS in June was life changing. I came home filled with newfound energy and empowered with faith in what I am doing as an entrepreneur. This has not yet proven to be profitable, but after hearing the stories of so many that made something out of nothing to great success, I believe I can too. The downside is I felt compelled to keep on top of everything many of these people are doing. I signed on to a ridiculous number of newsletters, downloaded way too many eBooks, and got a load of new followers and friends on twitter and FB. I over loaded myself with busy work.

Now summer is near the midpoint and I am behind on my goals of branding myself and rebuilding my website by Labor Day. I am more than midway through the WCWW and am writing less than I did a month ago. My home and garden are neglected, and I have made next to no progress on getting rid of our “stuff,” another summer goal. Something has got to change.

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but when I was a kid… (insert violins) summer truly seemed endless. Busy was not in my vocabulary, and most of my communicating happened face to face. Long lazy afternoons were spent laying in the grass talking about nothing and laughing at everything. It was the polar opposite of my life now. It is time to find the balance.

It is interesting that my three links today are people I met or saw at WDS.

Last week Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind wrote When You Need to Stop Listening, which concerns information overload. Jonathan is one of the people I was aware of but did not follow till June. I like his style and mind.

Sometimes we think we need to listen to other people to find out the best way.

It’s easy to feel that we need to learn better strategies, do more exercises and read more blog posts before we can find the best course of action. Doing this gets us caught in a doom spiral of endless preparation.

“A doom spiral of endless preparation.” Yes, I do believe I signed up for that. I have more books and eBooks on business, creativity, and motivation etc. to keep me busy for the next year and yet I still search. Back in May I wrote a sort of life manifesto where I stated the things I know for sure. I said,

Everything you really need to know is inside you if you are willing to look.

Hmm, it looks like I need to take my own advice.

Also last week, Jonathan Fields, who was the closing speaker at WDS, wrote about busyness and lack of productivity.

Great work, brilliant ideas, extraordinary art requires space.

Time away. Room to process, synthesize, allow connections between seemingly disparate parts to effervesce out of the ether of the mind.

Genius is the offspring of the in-between.

But, increasingly, technology is removing the in-between.

We don’t just walk in contemplation, we walk, talk and type.

We don’t just drive, we drive, talk and every time we stop the car, we check, tap and reply. Red lights, the bain of a life-long quest to get “there,” have now become a sought after opportunity to catch up on any communication that may’ve arrived since the last red-light…5 blocks ago.

But when we fill in all the organic in-betweens with texting, e-mailing, DMing and updating, we unintentionally kill the a critical step in the ideation process—percolation and contemplation—and along with it go creativity, innovation and despite your opposite intention, productivity.

So, why do we do it?

Filling in the in-between, we say, lets us get so much more done. Wrong.

Hyperconnectivity gives us the perception of getting more done, it makes us feel like we’re doing more, because we’re using every free moment of every waking hour.

There is often a huge chasm between being busy and being productive.

Well I can certainly attest to this. I could be the poster child. The question becomes what to do about it.

I recommend reading Jonathan’s post for some interesting reasons why this happens and some great comments. Yes, more reading, but about doing less!

Tammy Stroebel of Rowdy Kittens is taking a digital sabbatical this month and she wrote a post on the why and how. I have long admired Tammy’s straight forward approach to simple living. The why is mostly about getting a book written and knowing she needs the downtime to make it happen. She has a few suggestions on how.

There are a few things I’ve done to prepare for my month off:

Gathered my tools. A portion of my book includes academic research and that has already been saved to my hard-drive. So I shouldn’t have to open my browser. In addition, I’ve made a list of the books I want to read during July.

As far as writing tools go, I’ll be journaling, using the OmmWriter, and Word. If you’re thinking about unplugging for any length of time, make a list of the resources you’ll need. If you plan in advance, you won’t have to log-on.

Made it hard to be online. My plan is to do most of my writing in the park or in Internet free coffee shops. If I’m at home, I’ll turn off my wireless connection. In addition, I deleted all of my social networking applications from my iPod Touch as well as my e-mail account.

Also, I installed Freedom. It’s a “simple productivity application that locks you away from the internet on Mac or Windows computers for up to eight hours at a time.”

Likewise, returning to Jonathan Mead’s post, he suggests unplugging.

The best guidance you can get is from yourself. Everything you need is inside you. The best map is the one you create as you walk your path.

If you’re struggling with this my suggestion is to go on an information diet. Don’t read any blogs, books, ebooks or take in any inputs for a few weeks (or months, if you’re bold). Spend some time reflecting and meditating on what you want your life to be about.

And perhaps, more importantly, allow yourself to really believe that this is possible. You can’t get permission or confidence by looking at the notes or approval of others. Faith comes from deeply trusting yourself.

If you’re struggling with this, I invite you to unplug from all the inputs for a while and see what’s inside of you.

I do believe I have what I need, and that I know how to move forward. I have a plan and a support system. I only need to allow the time and space to process and create. Seems so simple?

This week I am taking some time off. Just one week. I will write one post on my blog Monday and then focus on my writing and website till Wednesday when we go to the beach for a few days. There I will be writing, on paper, with a pen, and may even mail some letters! There will most definitely be plenty of sitting, walking, and listening to myself on the beach.

My Jonathan Mead’s question for you: Have you ever struggled with information overload? What did you do about it?

6 thoughts on “being busy and the end of the endless summer

  1. Very timely post, Gwyn! I struggle with this constantly, and feel like if I am not plugged in, I am “missing something”. it is amazing how much time I can spend looking at other people’s sites, and reading their advice. I sometimes forget to live my own life!

    I have started unplugging at least 2 to 3 evenings per week, and find I am more centered and productive as a result.

  2. Wonderful words… “Everything you need to know is inside you if you are willing to look” — putting it into practice is the hard part. I think this simple advice is difficult for many people because culturally we are not encouraged to “look inside” but to follow directions and seek advice. The assumption is that ‘other’ people know more or know better. You are so right about making a plan to re-train ourselves to listen to our hearts, follow our intuition and work with all the resources we have within ourselves.

    The challenge is that there is a lot of great information out there that people generously share. It’s a matter of how to sift through it in small doses to find those gems, while keeping our own work and personal needs at the forefront. I accidentally realized that I function like the tides — I will advance out for a time read, gather information and make contacts, then recede back into myself. This pattern repeats itself, more or less successfully.

    Enjoy your vacation!

  3. Technology is great – but it is a great addiction too. Just “sniff the flowers”, take a deep breath and while doing so, decide if what you were about to do really is what is needed. You might then find a way of weeding out somethings and getting where you want to get! Irish? No, I’m half Scottish and half Engllish: but hope you see what I’m trying to say. Good luck. Isobel

  4. I get so excited when I found someone new to follow who really speaks to me, inspires me and gets me thinking. Problem is some days I have so many voices it’s hard to hear myself thinking, I get mixed signals and the path gets muddy. This summer I have been logging off for the weekends. I may sneak on facebook or google reader for a few moments on my husbands phone (which he generally wants back quickly) so, it has been a good plan for me so far!

  5. As a person who is totally connected to information all the time, information overload happens on a regular basis. In April I went off the grid for a weekend and came back totally inspired and completely sure of my direction and what I wanted to (last month I just launched my etsy site, website and blog, so progress is good). Unplugging is necessary for sure!

    One thing I wanted to share was a book I found called The Power of Less (http://thepowerofless.com/). What is so awesome about it, was that it helps you be more productive while doing less. The guy who wrote it has like 6 kids, runs marathons, quit smoking, wrote a book, and has a blog. While I didn’t do everything suggested, it has helped me streamline a little bit and its a really small book too, so it packs a punch!

    Good luck with your disconnecting!

  6. Thanks for the comments! It is so nice to know I am not alone in this even if I already knew. It is a challenge to find balance in the less is more, hyper-connected landscape.

    I love Leo Babauta Jennifer!

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