One of the key principles I teach in Project Prowess is that you have to have enough Capacity if you want to enjoy your creative process and complete your projects consistently.
(A quick refresher: Capacity is the time and energy you have available to do whatever it is you’re working on.)
Here’s a little story about what happens when you try to work beyond your capacity.
As you may know, I’m an Instigator for A Year With Myself. And I was completely honored when C. A. Kobu invited me to participate.
My module was due on February 16, and Project Prowess was (originally) set to start on February 23.
I thought I could submit excellent content to C. A., while still keeping up with spreading the word and preparing for Project Prowess.
Turns out I was completely wrong.
The pace I’d set myself was just not sustainable, and I let that manic energy of “I must do one more thing for my business…” take priority over rest and nourishment.
I had started to dread the fact that Project Prowess was about to start. And I was quietly cursing myself for agreeing to contribute to a different project at the same time.
When I found myself avoiding the things I love doing, I thought I was entering a season of Oh shit I have to tear down my entire business and start from scratch because oh my god I was wrong and what I thought was my passion isn’t my passion!
When you work beyond your capacity, you will pay the price sooner or later with fatigue, anxiety and even resentment.
It can change how you feel about your entire business and sap you of all motivation.
Here’s how I got myself out of the over-capacity mess:
1. Notice that something isn’t working
Your symptoms will be unique to you, but if you feel like you’re running from task to task (unsuccessfully) and you’re feeling tired, frustrated, resentful and needy (like you want someone else to fix everything for you – ahem!), chances are good that you are working from a state of depletion.
2. Ask yourself what can shift
Rarely is everything in your life unchangeable.
In my case, I couldn’t change my due date for A Year With Myself. That was a project with an external deadline, and lots of moving parts dependent on my contribution.
So I had to look for other places to open up some spaciousness.
The most obvious choice was to postpone Project Prowess, even though it felt like a really big deal to do that.
3. If you’re having trouble finding any wiggle-room, for each commitment you’ve made, ask what would happen if you postponed or cancelled it
As I said above, rarely is everything unchangeable.
If you’re sensitive and conscientious, chances are you tend to overestimate the impact a change will have on the other people involved. And that means you’ll be reluctant to back out of or shift a commitment you’ve already made.
Plus, if you were on the receiving end of messages about “quitting” being A Bad Thing, it’s easy for this kind of situation to trigger feelings of having failed.
Commitment is a necessary ingredient for creating what you want to create, but you have to look at your own commitment patterns to determine if keeping the commitment or changing it is the right choice for you.
What became clear to me is that if I didn’t postpone the start date, I would not be at my best for the lovely projectizers who had already signed up. And that was definitely not okay.
4. Whatever you decide to do, take responsibility for your choice
The resentment I was feeling toward my business a few weeks ago? Totally of my own doing.
I felt resentful because I perceived myself as powerless to change or fix things to work for me. I was defaulting to a victim mentality, when in reality, I am a business owner. I get to decide what’s best for me and my business.
Once I took control over my schedule again and decided to postpone my course, a lot of the anxiety dissolved.
That said, it was still pretty terrifying to tell people that I was changing the start date, especially since it was due to my own flub (i.e., not realizing sooner that I had a conflict). Would they get angry? Would they ask for a refund? Would they secretly think I was a flake but not say so?
All I could do at that point was to send honest emails to the projectizers and let them know what was happening and why.
5. Let go of the outcome
I didn’t know how the people who’d signed up would respond, but I’d made my decision. I knew I’d done my best to minimize inconvenience and disappointment, but I wasn’t in control of the outcome.
Part of how you keep that victim mentality from creeping in is by remembering that you made a specific choice, and why you made it.
I had to accept that maybe someone would get upset, but I was postponing the course to preserve my health and make sure I could offer a high-quality program for my people.
As it happened, nobody got upset. Not even slightly. In fact, several people said that the new start date worked better than the original.
6. Reflect on what needs to change for next time
This part is challenging because there are an infinite number of ways you can wind up working outside your capacity. That’s why part of what I teach in Project Prowess is to review every project for ways to improve and better understand your creative process.
In this particular case, here’s what I learned:
Promoting a course takes a lot of time and energy (at least for me, for now), so if I get an additional opportunity that’s too good to pass up, I’ll do a better job of negotiating my deadlines and changing them when necessary.
Mistakes will happen, and they are almost never the catastrophe my inner perfectionist believes them to be.
Ignoring the signs and symptoms of depletion does nothing to address the problem.
I’ve gathered more evidence that doing what’s best for myself is very often what’s best for others, so it doesn’t make sense to punish my health for a deadline that can be changed.
How about you?
What has you over-capacity right now?
What gets in the way of creating more spaciousness for yourself?
Image credit: karpacious