I’ve been finding everything really hard lately
Friends, I’ve been finding everything really hard lately.
I have a lot to feel fortunate for – not least the ongoing generosity and support of my Correspondents, THANK YOU! – but there’s really no getting away from the fact that this global pandemic continues to have a dramatic, far reaching, unpredictable effect on all of us, however grateful we are for our health, a roof over our heads and the ability to keep buying the groceries we need to survive (thank you again, Correspondents!).
Despite knowing better, over recent months I allowed my work hours to expand to late nights and most weekends, and even though I had a feeling something was going to snap at some point, I kept pushing myself until OOPS, snap it did. Yep, the warning signs were there – noticeably slower brain function, tears flowing every day at little provocation, being quicker to anger…
Since that awful night I’ve been thoroughly reassessing the way I, as the boss of my own company, treat my workforce – me. Pretty poorly, it seems. I know the kind of work I do is like a gas – it’ll expand to fit whatever container it’s in, so the main change I’m making is to set strict boundaries. I start work at 10am and am not allowed to work past 6pm. I don’t work on the weekends. I’m experimenting with taking half days on Wednesday and Friday (that’s a scary one, because it feels like I’m skiving off, but what’s the point of working for yourself and not creating your own schedule, right?). I’ve made myself work long hours on enough gloriously sunny days in my life, it’s time to live a little!
The irony that I started reading Greg McKeown’s “Essentialism” a week before my crash is not lost on me, and I picked out some really useful concepts that I’m working to implement going forward.
1/ Editing – rather than adding more and more detail to to try and explain something, you take things away to get to the true message.
2/ Uncommitting – in the book he uses the example of someone who creates a time consuming detailed weekly report for his team that no-one needs or reads, and suggests experimenting by stopping doing that thing for a while to see if anyone notices.
3/ What’s Important Now? (WIN) – a very helpful question I’ve started asking myself whenever I start feeling overwhelmed.
Relating these three ideas to my current situation, it was clear that some tweaks needed to be made. I was planning a short break from making my podcast anyway, so the timing was great for taking a step back. I’ve been reassessing how I can use the limited time, energy and mental bandwidth I have as one human person to do the things that only I can do to the best of my ability, and what non-essential things I can reduce my time on. Kicking my bad social media / phone scrolly-scrolly habits over the past year massively helped with this already, but I was still very obviously doing too much and expecting too much of myself.
Alongside music making and podcast making, my other major commitment is, of course, The Correspondent’s Club. Its predecessor, Supersub Club, was set up as a yearly subscription with quarterly deliveries, because I knew I didn’t have the capacity for, and didn’t want the stress of, delivering things monthly. While there are many ways of approaching music making and releasing these days, I still believe in the artistic power of an album to contain a collection of songs that say something together as well as individually. My focus will always be making the very best next album I can rather than creating new stuff and rushing it out just because there’s a schedule.
So, four months into running The Correspondent’s Club feels like a good time to make some minor tweaks, now I’ve had time to see what works and figure out which perks people are responding most warmly to.
It turns out the two most time-consuming perks, the monthly voicemail and monthly online gig, are the things I can dial back on most easily, that will actually improve if they happen a little less often and that I feel will consequently be enjoyed by more people. These will now move to happening quarterly, in line with the music and art bundles. Everything else will stay the same.
As always, monthly members can up-or down-grade their subscriptions at any time, and I will never be offended if you decide to change yours. It blows my mind that people are so invested in my music making that they want to subscribe in this way, I value each and every one of you who do so, and urge you always to ensure that 1) whatever you choose to pay is a comfortable sum that doesn’t adversely affect anything else in your life and 2) that you always make sure you feel you’re getting value for your money.
There will always be a physical limit to what I, as one person doing this, is able to give in return for your patronage, but I promise what I do deliver will always be of the highest quality, made with love and care, focus and attention.
I’ll leave you for now with the latest quote I’m going to be taping up on my studio wall. I picked it up from “Essentialism”, but it’s actually from Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Despite dialling back on everything for the past couple of weeks, somehow I still seem to be on track to complete the album recording this month. That’s the main thing…but is it really? Workwise, yes of course. But even when you love your job, as I love mine, there’s more to consider.
A wise friend texted me last week that in a crisis like Covid-19 “our only task is to stay healthy, sane and alive…until we have a surplus of energy and resources all we need to do is live”.
And that’s really the main thing.
Here’s to surviving. Please let me know how you’re doing here in the comments.
Oh I know the feeling of finding it hard to set and stick to boundaries. I’ve been in reverse finding it hard to do anything creative at all but muddling along day to day. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up when you have less productive times – you are amazing. X
You’re kind to say so! It’s more an issue of having too many things I want to do than not getting anything done, but forcing myself to stop is good for realising what’s humanly achievable in a day and learning to accept that I can’t do all the things. I hope you’re keeping well x
Sorry to hear how you’ve been feeling Laura :o( This is a great quote from your friend, “our only task is to stay healthy, sane and alive…until we have a surplus of energy and resources all we need to do is live”. I think that’s what the majority of us are trying hard to do right now. I’ve noticed quite a large drop in my work of late, but just hope that this is due to companies still being furloughed. It is a continual worry but I’m taking your friend’s advice as best as possible. Stay strong Laura, we’re all with you :o) xx
Thanks Andy! xo
Love this. Big hugs to you for taking steps for self-care. You’re setting an example for us all x
I don’t know about that, Jessie, but thanks for reading and for being so kind x
So sorry to see how bad of a time you’ve been having, you’re certainly not alone, but I’m sure you’ll get through it, as you say, be kinder to yourself, anyone who’s waiting for your art to emerge is not going to be offended if you take your time to keep yourself healthy, the best things come to those who wait. Like everyone I have “Up” days & “Down” days but on the whole I feel like, despite my procrastination I am making some progress. My own musical creativity comes & goes, but the good news is I’m no longer pushing a finished result when I sit down with my guitar. I’ve been able to content myself with just creating building blocks when the ideas are less numerous, little fragments I can build up from later. A simple idea that for some reason has only occurred to me after twenty-odd-years of playing. Stay healthy, keep the overtime to a minimum & look after you & yours. Much love.
That sounds so healthy, Mike, well done! x
I’m sorry you’re not feeling 100% and glad that you’re trying manage what you can do, what you can give up or dial back on and when you should be doing all of that. I’ve had a bit of a similar experience, in a very different environment.
I’m not in a creative job. Teams and email is a big old drain on the time and there’s never enough of that and too much of the other two. I went (online went, not in person) to a seminar the other day – The Way of the Productivity Ninja. Simple ideas but now if I’m doing something important at work Teams and Outlook get turned off! It’s helped a lot already!
I wish you well in your endeavours and hope your new ways work for you.
That sounds great, Julia! I’d highly recommend “Deep Work” by Cal Newport as well, it’s a life changing book. Best wishes to you too xo
Yep I saw a very compelling cartoon: the titanic is standing on end and going down a someone shouts “Now I will write my novel!” Louise and I run a support group for teachers and the first thing we get them to grasp is the concept of ‘enough’ and that enough means Stop! Also one of Louise’s favourites from Great at Work by Morten T Hansen ‘ Do less then obsess effects performance more than any other practice…” As ever we are here for you any time ❤️
Enough (when it comes to having done enough) is something I don’t understand, that’s for sure!
I’ve been failing at life lately.
But here’s to surviving.
And the rest.
Is just a bonus.
Thank you for sharing xx
Thank you for sharing too. Onwards! xo
It is really hard now. It is not just you. You sound like you are on a pretty good track actually, with the self-evaluation that you have started and the resulting changes in your daily procedures that you are implementing. And by me saying this, please don’t take my meaning as “hey, you are really lucky. quit complaining.” That is not my meaning in any way. But I might take my remarks that way if I was in a dark place and I want to make sure that you don’t. It really is, as you say, really hard lately.
Work at home is a desperately iffy proposition. I find that my work will expand to fill the hours I allow it to, and if I’m not careful, that means from wake up to head down, not working all that time certainly, but not being at home on leisure either. And that isn’t good. For me schedules have helped, up-time, down-time, call it what you will time. They validate not working, as it were. A ruse perhaps, but for me effective.
Please as you say, find time to live a little, and to enjoy your own company and that of others around you.
Your music gives me respite in my dark times. Music in general does. The gift that musicians give by creating what they create and putting it out there for others to listen to and draw inspiration from, indefinitely into the future awes me. There is such generosity in that, such optimism.
I hope you manage to find something that does the same for you.
That’s such a beautiful thing to say, Thomas, about optimism. I’m not sure I’d thought of it like that before. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we’re doing right now and not see that possibility. Thanks for giving me lots to think about, and a real boost. I’m glad schedules are working for you too. I’m find Cal Newport’s time blocking technique super helpful at the moment. Take care and we can get through this by helping each other, I reckon.