Three years ago I decided to try something new in my life.
One year ago it was almost ruining me.
I've had a love/hate relationship with my (so far) short writing career. When you start out you feel an urge to say yes to anything and everything, and by last year I was spending what felt like most of my life on the computer - but not really getting anywhere. Almost everything was unpaid, and although I was building up a social media profile I wasn't doing much of note to deserve it.
I almost counteracted that by starting a business - yes, adding more on top of everything - but at the last minute I realised that wasn't the answer at all.
So instead, I simplified everything about my life and gave a lot of thought to how to make it better. It's only with hindsight that I can see how that took place...
It's not the end of the world
My existence is not complicated by its nature: I live in a peaceful place, with a generous and undemanding family and supportive friends. I have very few pressures on me. My life gets complicated only when I make it so - and that one big realisation was the start of it all. As was knowing that if I'm not doing every little thing that comes my way, it's not the end of the world.
I started to say no to things. A new criteria for my work - paid or unpaid - became that it had to have some REAL benefit to me, it had to be something I really wanted to do. I started asking myself, 'What's in it for me?' and if the answer is too vague or not good enough, I say no. I now say no (both to work and other commitments) more than I say yes, focusing on what's right for me and my family not everyone else.
Committing to what I want to do
With some amazing support (which I talked about here) I came to see what I wanted to do, rather than what I felt I should do. And then I stuck to it. (Until then I'd been chopping and changing, scared to commit to any one thing in case it failed.) This year has been productive, but not busy for the sake of being busy.
There is time
My fall-back state is to feel rushed and busy, but I had to (and still have to) remind myself that right now I'm a stay-at-home-mum trying to create a new career path for my future. It isn't realistic to aim for high earnings and bucketloads of work every day. I'm taking my time and enjoying my meandering.
Work around life
I decided to work backwards. Rather than focusing on my career and figuring everything else around it (which is what I'd always done), I gave some real thought to what type of parent I want to be and what type of life I want to have - and then, how I could fit work in around that.
There's this theory with exercise: there isn't any point doing 200 repetitions of something if you're doing it wrong. Better to get it right and only do it 20 times, and then build it up from there. I did that with my life: scaled everything back to the bare minimum, and then started building on it again with things that are important to me. And the rest remain discarded.
Keep it going
I still fall back into that state sometimes - the point where my head won't stop and I'm worrying about the rest of my life and really torturing myself - but I recognise it now. That used to be how I felt all the time, so I'm really thankful that now I can escape it ('it' being my own mind). It took a lot of practice - and still does.
This pace is just right for me at this point in my life, and I'm so glad I was able to step back and simplify things. Funnily enough it's made me more productive, more focused on the things I want and need to do, and a much better person to be around.
Next step: remembering to simplify even more when there's a newborn in the house!