Simplicity in Action: Maria

My weakest spot? Taking it easy. Not trying to do everything at once. Prioritizing projects rather than jumping into everything right away.

I am an entrepreneur and I am really passionate about what I do. I have the tendency to virtually chase after every idea I come up with, all at once. Experience has taught me that doing so leaves me overwhelmed and projects are left unfinished.

The obvious solution to this problem is prioritization. Finish one project before you get started with another. Prudent advice. What I learned though is that making the decision to prioritize may be a great first step, but alone it’s not enough. You also need to remind yourself along the way that you are actually on the right path. Let me explain.

In August I was working on my first book Surprisingly…Unstuck. One beautiful Saturday morning, I came up with an idea for a health technology startup that would target people who wish they exercised more, but don’t. Helping these people is my passion and the idea seemed amazing. I got so excited with it I could do nothing else than dream on that day! I really wanted to start working on it.

But I knew that I couldn’t possibly do everything at the same time. I had to focus. Agh…Right at that moment I decided that I would not start working on the startup idea before I published the book.

Prioritization – done! Well, almost. Life is really good at testing your convictions.

You see, when I started writing the book, I aimed to write 20 pages. Then 20 pages became 40. Then 40 became 80. Long story short, I ended up writing 220! The scope of the book completely changed from a manifesto to a comprehensive “healthy habits” volume.

As the book scope kept expanding, I obviously kept missing all my “book deadlines”.  Plus, my other projects (like the startup idea) had to wait. Longer and longer. The result was that this extra time made me feel ineffective and unproductive. I didn’t appreciate my efforts because all my deadlines were missed – obviously, since the scope of the project changed, or worse, kept changing. But I didn’t want to sacrifice the quality of the book in favor of sticking to my (outdated) deadlines, did I?

The solution? Take a deep breath. Go with the flow. Acknowledge that time is limited and so are you. And do that regularly. Make it a practice if possible.

Making the decision not to do everything at once is indeed the first step to simplicity, but if you are like me, then you may need to inject yourself with additional, regular “deep breath” moments. They remind you to go back to serenity where you belong and you are the most creative. And they feel so good and nourishing for the soul…

Maria is a Stanford educated (healthy habits) engineer. Her new book “Surprisingly…Unstuck: Rewire your brain to exercise more, eat right, and truly enjoy doing so” is available through Amazon. Read more from her at Fitness Reloaded.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m afraid that often we think that creativity and discipline are at odds with each other, but in fact, if we don’t exercise some discipline our creativity can be choked by an over-worked, erratic mind.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing, Maria!

    I find that, in the winter especially, I have the same challenges that you do. I teach Algebra/Special Education during the day, so my creative pursuits are all “extras,” although I consider them to be as important a part of my life as my “day” job.

    This December, I went through a significant spiritual journey/struggle and had to back off of many of my projects in order to work on that. I’m now easing back into everything, slowly, although I constantly feel the need to WRITE about everything I’ve learned/discovered!

    It’s really a matter of balance, going with the flow but staying focused.

    Maybe some day one of us will figure it out. ;-)

    • says

      Bethany,

      I think that figuring out “balance” is almost impossible. To me it feels that we are constantly balancing our lives, the scales tipping to one side or the other, but we seldom remain in the “perfect balance” situation more than a few minutes or days at best.

      And that is fine! Balancing the scales is fun in its own way. It gives us purpose. And purpose feels good.

      I hope that you find a way to prioritize, be effective, and feel good with all you do. Happy 2013!

  3. says

    I understand this feeling well Maria, but had another problem. About three months ago, I was working on a project that took up my every available creative moment. I tend to take on one crafting thing at a time so I am not left with all these unfinished “works in progress”. But, I was stuck. I wasn’t bored with my project but I felt that the project was not heading where I wanted it to go. Rather than face when I knew I needed to do, I ignored it. But, I didn’t start anything else. So, that creative flow ceased for two weeks. It was kinda like a mourning period for what I knew I had to do.
    Then, I woke up one day and decided to do what I needed to. I took my work, took out everything that wasn’t working and chucked it. Hours and hours of work, I let go. (Chapters of a book or blog posting deliberately erased, yards of prettily sewn seaming ripped back to the start, rows and rows of crocheting or knitting to be frogged, a painstakingly written recipe torn up– choose your project.)
    And when it was gone, I was happy and unblocked! I had already mourned the loss and now it was time to move on. I hope this makes sense as the two seem related to me. :-) Once my project was back to the point where I could steer it in the direction I had wanted it to go in, it did not feel forced anymore. It was natural. And, it moved quickly! I was very pleased with the results.
    Sometimes, we have to let go of those things that are unusually difficult for whatever reason– some may be okay to plow through, but often we need to realize when its time to refocus and begin anew. I hope that makes sense!

    • says

      Hettie,

      I totally understand what you are talking about! I believe that progress, true progress, does not just include “moving forward” but “moving backwards” too! By mourning and then, letting go, you were actually progressing even though it didn’t seem so at first.

      But it was so, and that’s why you felt unblocked.

      This is a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

      Maria

  4. says

    Hi Maria, I also suffer from prioritizing-crisis – lol.

    Recently I learned about the “Buddhist middle way” or path of moderation. Its about being balanced. For prioritizing, we would have something like this…

    I can do everything at the same time – First extreme
    I can’t do anything at the same time – Second extreme

    To be more specific with your story…

    I can write my book and start my start-up at the same time – First extreme
    I can’t write my book neither start my start-up at the same time – Second extreme

    Then you choose to not live on any of these extremes but in the middle. And as you said, we need to find this balance every day, every moment.

    • says

      John,

      I have to say that the “middle way” is not always the best choice. I didn’t want to start my startup while I was still working on the book. I didn’t believe I couldn’t do it, I could, I just believed it would…confuse me.

      And confusion does not bear good results.

      In my case my startup was just an add-on on the the pressure I felt because the scope of the book kept expanding…and expanding…and expanding…

  5. says

    Hi Maria,

    I love your idea of regular “deep breath” moments.

    When a project takes off for me, I can get a bad case of tunnel vision. Which is good in that it means I can be very focused, but makes it hard to keep perspective.

    The idea of taking a deep breath, and taking stock regularly is very relevant to the way I work.

    Thanks for the great post!

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