You Can’t Do Everything, All At Once

It’s tempting. It’s not worth trying.

In college, I made the mistake of trying to do everything in one year.

It was not a good year.

In retrospect, I accomplished almost nothing, I lost most of my friends, and I ended that very long year extremely unhappy and unwell.

You just can’t do it all. See it all. Be it all.

At least, not all at once.

I know there’s this sense of urgency that comes with every new idea that comes to your mind. I’ve felt it. We all have. And there’s nothing more overwhelming than sitting alone, surrounded by five different could-be winning projects, knowing you can’t juggle them all — but really, really wishing you could.

But just because it feels like you have to take it all on, as soon as possible, doesn’t mean you should try.

You have time. I know it doesn’t seem like there’s ever enough. But that’s because we, as a species, are really bad at estimating how long things are going to take … and planning out that hypothetical time in advance.

Maybe you can’t finish writing your book, start an email newsletter, start posting more regularly to your blog, and seek out a few new freelancing clients all in one month.

But it’s very possible you can complete one of these goals this month. And another the next. And another the month after that.

Maybe you can’t start working on four new projects tomorrow.

But you might be able to work on all of them this year, if you plan accordingly.

Next time you find yourself completely buried beneath the weight of too many new ideas, take a deep breath. Jot down what’s buzzing around in your head. Pick out the things that you can focus your time on right now, and store the rest in a place you can easily return to later.

I have a running list of new ideas I’ve stumbled upon just in the last 2 months. It’s a long list. But I’m able to leave them there unattended, because I don’t have to worry they’re going to disappear. I should have some sort of time stamp on them, reminding myself of the best time to pick them up. But I’m not quite there yet. You can add that feature to your list, though, if you think it might help.

There is no rule that says you cannot do, see, or be more than one thing.

But you are not a superhuman. You are only capable of so much at one time.

Your sense of urgency is trying to trick you. It doesn’t all need to happen right here, right now.

Take a step back. Create an action plan. Prepare. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you dive in. Pick something to focus most of your energy on. And when it’s time, give it your all. And nothing more.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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14 thoughts on “You Can’t Do Everything, All At Once

    1. You’re very welcome! It is something I have struggled with my whole life. I’m glad my words helped you at least a little. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!

  1. It really is hard, especially since it’s easy to hear about something powerful and effective that someone else is doing, and wanting to utilize what you’ve learned by “getting on that”, but that’s like trying to surf by chasing after a wave.
    I will say that we are most fortunate to exist in a world of computers and word processing programs. I love using headers and the Find command to keep my ideas organized. My ideas list can grow as long as I need it to; it will never be too big to fit on a computer hard drive, and I’ll never lose any of the ideas I write there.

  2. This is really solid advice, even when older (much older) there’s still this temptation to think ‘I can do it all’
    Has to be reblogged.

    1. You mean the temptation doesn’t get any easier to resist as time goes on? Hahaha great. :P Seriously though, thanks so much for reading, sharing and commenting, I really appreciate reading your thoughts!

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