[sneak preview: close-up of one of my 1001 idea lists]
Yesterday was the first night in a while I fell right asleep. I did not spend another 2 hours trying to silence my hyperactive brain. I slept so well because of an insight I had that I would like to share with you.
Over the last week I have been working practically non-stop on my newest product. It’s a collection of 1001 ideas, divided into varied categories. Each category is a different list on a separate page. In the past few weeks I finished the brainstorming and selection part of the ideas. Last week, I started photographing a fun background for each separate list of ideas, hence, making them into a collection of high quality A4 prints.
I thought it would take me 3 hours to finish each print: plan, prepare, take and edit the picture, and add all the ideas into it in a visually pleasing way. That way I would be able to finish 3 prints a day, and in 10 days (counting the weekend) I should be done the weekend before Christmas, leaving me a couple of days to think about marketing, launch pictures and writing up posts.
Yeah, I thought wrong.
The thing is, I have been working my butt off, and finishing 3 prints a day is just not feasible. In fact, when I work really hard, finishing 2 is about the maximum that is realistic to accomplish within a day. That is, when I completely ignore my blog in the meantime, tell my sister I can’t talk on the phone because I need to finish taking pictures before daylight is gone, and am a wreck by the time I eat dinner with Joran because I haven’t allowed myself a single moment to breathe during the day, all while being disappointed in myself for once again finishing ‘only one and a half print’ in a whole day.
I mildly underestimated the amount of work it was going to take to finish something with a level of quality that I can be proud of. With mildly I mean greatly.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Well, do you ever feel like you work incredibly hard, yet it’s just not good enough?
You have big dreams. You set high goals for yourself. Often you even make a specific planning for how you are going to accomplish your plans. But what happens if your planning gets muddled? Not because you have been watching funny cat videos on YouTube all day, but just because giving it your all still isn’t enough.
Big goals are great. Big, unrealistic goals are tiresome and demotivating.
When you work on something big that you’ve never done before, it’s often hard to tell in advance how much time it’s going to take. You make a planning to the best of your ability. But when your planning fails, you have two options.
1. You produce what you can in a day at your maximum workload. At the end of each and every day you feel hugely disappointed that you didn’t make your initial target.
2. You alter your expectations. From now on your target is set at a lower, more realistic rate. You still continue to produce the same results at maximum workload. However, now at the end of the day, you feel like you have accomplished a lot and feel good about yourself and your work.
Let me simplify that even more:
1. Do the work. Feel like crap.
2. Do the work. Feel good.
Lower your expectations.
For those of you who read that line with contempt (a.k.a. you’re like me) I will say it again, friendly.
Lower your expectations, please.
You are not a super human. I do believe in your enormous potential. I do believe that you are able to accomplish amazing things that not many people out there will be able to do. But they will take time, lot’s of it. Allow yourself that time.
It can be scary to lower your expectations. You might feel like you are letting yourself down by not living up to your initial goals. But setting huge, unrealistic targets and mindlessly expecting from yourself to accomplish them is just madness.
Just because you want something really bad, doesn’t magically give you more hours in a day.
It doesn’t work like that. (Although I wish it would.)
You need to cut yourself some slack. Seriously. Dividing a huge goal into more realistic sub targets is the very least you can do as an act of kindness towards yourself.
Stop being so hard on yourself. Allow yourself to accomplish the same as you would find realistic for a friend, family member or colleague.
You’ll find that work is a lot more fun when you allow yourself the time you actually need to get it done.
Ok. Enough about goals and plannings and expectations.
Over to the fun stuff.
So yes, my project feels gigantic, and I need to manage my workload expectations, but I do believe it’s going to be great.
Yesterday I finished a list with ‘Questions to ask when you’re stuck in a boring conversation’. I also worked on a print about ‘Things to do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam’. I photographed car shaped candy for that. I had to restrict myself from eating all the licorice before the final picture was taken. In the Netherlands the type of candy is quite well known, but I believe outside you don’t quite appreciate the taste of licorice the way we do.
[licorice cars I used for my ‘Things to when you’re stuck in a traffic jam idea list]
I’m at a total of 11 A4-posters now. There is going to be a list with party theme ideas, last minute gift ideas, guerilla art project ideas, ways to surprise your partner and many more fun lists.
Although I had planned to launch my 1001 idea source before Christmas, you will have to wait a little bit longer for it (the whole lowering your expectation story might have something to do with that). I can’t tell you what exact date to expect it. I can tell you that you can expect 1. I’ll be pouring out my whole heart and all of my energy and creativity into it in the coming weeks 2. It’s going to be awesome.
At least my reviewed perspective of reality makes me able to sleep at night again. Now I need to start listening to my own advice and remember it.
Do you ever pressure yourself with unrealistic expectations? What helps you to break through?