Q. “This year has been incredible, and I look back at lots of wonderful accomplishments. But I also wonder if I’m spreading myself too thin. After two years of freelancing as a writer and editor, I’m thrilled to be busy with work I love. I also work on projects that use my writing skills in more creative ways, such as working on my novel. And I make time for exercise, meditation and some volunteer work. But … am I trying to do too much?”
Many people who read this will say, “Good grief! I’d love to have that problem. I would kill to be able to make a living as a freelancer, especially in the world of writing.”
But I also hear from people who call when they’ve reached a goal or when they finally feel on top of their careers. Typically their questions run along the lines of:
“I feel so busy all the time! I love what I’m doing but there’s never enough downtime.”
“OK, I’m exactly where I want to be. But what’s the next step?”
“Am I doing something wrong?”
The truth is that a happy, full life usually feels busy beyond the comfort level, especially if you’ve endured spells of emptiness to get there. And it’s also true that careers rarely remain constant; if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that your circumstances will change. And you’re not doing anything wrong.
Some Questions For You
First, what’s the problem with being spread too thin? Are you concerned that you’re not going to succeed in any one area because your energies are divided? Or are you afraid you’ll become exhausted and burn out? Or is your fear of being spread too thin a way of saying, “Wow – this is SO good! There must be something wrong!”
Second, are you getting signals from the environment that you’re being spread too thin? For instance, do clients complain about your work? Do you have trouble keeping up with obligations?
Finally, do you feel that some parts of your life are interfering with your most important priorities? For instance, let’s say you want to write a novel and you keep putting it on the back burner.
You can let these questions percolate. Chances are they’ll sort themselves out over time, especially if you remain active and engaged while also making time for quiet time and relaxation practices, such as meditation.
Enjoy what you have.
Careers have seasons. (I don’t remember where this idea came from; I wrote about career seasons a long time ago.) During the spring you get things started and plant your seeds. In summer you get to enjoy the richness of your life and the first fruits of your labor. You’re still working and you also have time to play. Time seems to stretch and you’ll do lots of different things that create adventures and memories. You soak up experiences and feel energized.
In fall you reap the benefits of your hard work and hopefully store some provisions for the winter. And yes, there will be a winter; it might be severe or mild, long or short, but it comes round to everyone sooner or later
My hunch is that you’re in the summertime of your career. Relax, enjoy and soak up some metaphorical sun. You’ll be in great shape for fall and, whenever it comes, the winter.
When have you felt overwhelmed? How did you deal with being spread too thin? Please add a comment below.
And if you’d like to talk over your career seasons, sign up for a career strategy session. Discover how you can make the most of your opportunities in any season.