I consider myself to be a fairly productive human: most of the time at least. But even with a “high” capacity for being busy/productivity/”adulting”, I still fall into the trap of overextending myself. It generally goes a little something like this: Knowing I’m the type of person who needs to be hitting a base-level of busy to motivate myself to do anything productive to begin with (my to-do list will more likely get tackled with 10 items than only 1-2 items on it), I tell myself that taking on an opportunity or project will be FINE. It’s only one more thing on top of my normal schedule. How difficult could it be? And it is fine, so the next week when one extra project pops up I tell myself it will also be fine. This is a mistake. Between my desire to attempt to truly “do it all” and make everyone around me happy, I’ll just keep adding another obligation, and another and another and another until I’ve surpassed my ability to physically do it all.
That’s when everything starts to go wrong. There’s an energy switch that happens when I teeter over my limit of productivity. I’ll wake up in the morning telling myself, not quite aware yet, that today will be busy but a good day anyway. Then the little things pile up. Simple tasks that are normally super easy just won’t go right. I’ll get locked out of the bathroom and out late for my morning run; the glass bottle of vanilla extract magically falls off the shelf and smashes allover the floor; my smoothie won’t blend; the battery goes out in my car’s key fob. I’ll be stressed out only an hour into my day and I’ll just know —I’ve committed to one too many obligations.
Overextension has been the theme to my August. Each thing I committed to individually was a totally doable commitment, but all together? Uff! This month I ended up working a couple extra jobs on top of my normal full-time position. As a former teacher, I use to work at a friend’s summer camp every year and took some of my vacation time to help out there again this summer, too. I also have been having a bit of busy month with the blogging, events, and Instagram work I do. Add in my workout schedule, volunteer work on a political campaign, personal commitments, home improvement goals, roommate interviews (we are saying goodbye to a wonderful roommate and hello to a new roommate this month), and a trip to LA for my actual job and you get month of non-stop working.
I knew I had overextended myself this month before making it through a full morning. It was Aug 1st and the first day I was working at the summer camp. It was also suppose to be the first day of another Gretchen Tries Stuff Challenge. I was intending to only eat food grown/manufactured locally—or at least local-ish. I got out of bed and almost immediately everything went wrong. I’d been too busy in July to do my full meal planning and still had too much food in my fridge that wasn’t locally sourced; I’d overslept on a morning I had to start work earlier than normal and just barely squeezed in a run, sacrificing my chance to put together a real lunch and opted to grab a few oatmeal cookies for lunch instead; my smoothie wouldn’t blend if my life depended on it no matter what I tried; my cat puked on the floor; and the battery had died in my key fob when I tried to unlock my car, leaving me running upstair in my house to grab the spare fob, which also had a dead battery—Surprise! As I stood there trying to get into my car, already late to work, I thought to myself, “Girl, it’s day 1 and you’ve already overextended yourself.”
Once I know I’ve over-committed my time, there isn’t a whole lot I feel like I can do about it. I’m not the type of person to try to back out of a work commitment and instead smile, pretend it’s fine, and barrel through it. This usually leaves me in a state of total burnout. Burnt out Gretchen is the opposite of productive Gretchen. She closes her bedroom door and watches Downton Abbey on her iPad and pretends she isn’t home when the door bell rings—for like a full week straight. She wears pjs ’till well past noon and only goes running begrudgingly to “counter” spending the rest of the day laying on her bed marathon a tv show and only eating cheese and crackers cause she can’t be bothered to cook. She doesn’t return emails or text messages. It takes her a while to get back into the swing of things and force herself to be “productive Gretchen” again.
So this August, in an attempt to avoid wasting a full week recovering and hiding from the world, I thought I might try to be proactive and cut back on a few obligation. I axed my Gretchen Tries Stuff Challenge for the month, deciding that it was going to be just a little too much to try to do at this moment—specially with traveling involved. Ultimately I was going to save myself a whole lot of stress by postponing it. (I still plan on doing my local-sourced food challenge in the future). I ended up writing a few scripts, but decided to postpone filming and editing my YouTube video for the month. (Keep an eye out for new videos starting in September). I also ended up canceling a few personal plans I had and moved a camping trip to September.
Will I manage to avoid my burnout recovery slump this time around? I’m feeling really hopeful that I’ll get out of this round of overextending myself without too much fall out and missed emails. We’ll see after life settles down a bit in September how successful I am. If not, be prepared for all my Instagram Stories to center around my reaction to my most recent tv marathon.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.