I’m working with a new business coach.
There are things I want to do, with The Creative Life, that I don’t know how to do. There are also things I feel I should do that I’d prefer to eliminate entirely.
I need a guide, a roadmap – and that’s one of the many things a coach can do for you.
But first, she asked me to list all the projects I’m currently working on, plus any other commitments and obligations I’ve taken on.
There was a lot.
- I was in the middle of editing a book – a project I’d somewhat foolishly taken on while already overloaded, to help an old friend.
- I’m also struggling to do the final edits on my own book (yes, still!).
- I’m behind with posts for The Creative Life, and had looming deadlines for magazine articles.
- There are urgent things to do for my elderly mum and mum-in-law.
- I have yet to set up my new laptop properly, so I’m not using it.
- Several jobs around the house are becoming urgent or irritating.
- The garden and allotment need serious attention.
- There’s a long list of small, but annoying tech jobs outstanding.
- I’m going to Spain to celebrate a friend’s birthday in June – yet I haven’t even booked the plane ticket, let alone thought about accommodation.
I had more. But by then I was hyper-ventilating, and my coach had heard enough.
“So,” she said. “You need to close some of these open loops before we talk about anything else.”
This is something else a coach can do.
They help you see what would be obvious, if you weren’t so caught up in your own stories. It’s the kind of thing I point out to my own clients, all the time. Yet I still couldn’t spot it in my own life.
Open loops are sticky, they play on your mind. It’s why each episode of a TV series closes on a cliffhanger, so make you tune in the following week or keep watching a series well into the night.
It’s why it’s useful, when you’re doing creative work, to stop in the middle of a good bit, so you’ll know exactly where to pick up the following day.
You’ll never clear the decks completely, have some magical, golden time when all your nagging to-dos are done. But it’s important to occasionally consolidate and catch up before starting anything new.
So this month is about closing my open loops.
This means I’ve had to say no. To some social plans, and a few potential opportunities. To other things that were on my list this month, but weren’t as urgent.
It’s been worth it. I’ve already finished the friend’s book, got my magazine articles done and sorted the urgent stuff for our mums.
I’ve asked local friends to recommend someone who is good at repairs and DIY jobs, to get the house jobs done. And I’ve found a new VA to do the small tech tasks I was struggling with.
The stress is already starting to lift.
I’m also spending every Sunday in the garden or at the allotment, digging or planting. This might seem an odd use of my time when there’s urgent work to do, but I enjoy it.
I need the exercise, and to be outside. And if I don’t do it this month, there will be no garden to enjoy, and no vegetables to harvest for the rest of the summer.
After writing this, I’m going to book my trip to Spain and set up my laptop. Then I’ve scheduled two-hour blocks on my calendar to get on top of my admin and write some new blog posts. (Let me know if there’s anything you’d like me to cover!)
At the end of the month, I’ve cleared a week to do nothing but work on my own book. I’ll avoid distractions by doing a lot of it in coffee shops, on my new laptop.
Then – after a fun trip to Spain that will make up for some of those social gatherings I turned down – I’ll finally have another session with my new coach. When I’ll be excited to get on with new things, rather than overwhelmed by the old projects.
Are you feeling overwhelmed, too?
It can help to take a few weeks every so often, to regroup and close some of those nagging open loops.
Write down all the projects you are working on right now. And all your other commitments, to-dos and obligations. Then ask these questions:
- What is the one thing that, if you had the courage to eliminate it entirely, would make all the others easier?
- What’s really urgent, and what just feels urgent?
- What’s important, and will move your life forward?
- Is there anyone else who could do any of this? Or help?
- Look at what’s left. Number them if you can, in order of priority.
- Choose what’s most urgent, or what will be the biggest relief to have off your mind.
- Now block off time on your calendar to get them done.
You might have to say no for a while.
The relief is worth it. But remember to schedule some sort of celebration or reward at the end of it, before you take on new things.
And if you’re interested in what coaching can do in your own life, apply for an introductory coaching session with me. At the moment I’m offering a full 90-minute session via Zoom for he special price of £99. You can apply for yours here.