During Shit Times, Just Do The Necessary
We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a creative project, you’ve got a huge important deadline, or you’re running a business and something happens.
Maybe it’s a period of health issues, a family crisis, a break-up, or something else. But it knocks the sails out of you and you need time, space and energy to deal with life.
This post is half permission slip and half a bunch of practical ways you can cope when life goes wonky, you have unexpected bad stuff to deal with but somehow you’ve still got to keep going.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that life is feeling pretty tough at the moment.
Well, first of all - you’re not alone. A whole lot of people are down there in the trenches with you right now, even if they don’t all talk about it.
So, life’s not going to plan, right?
But even though you don’t know how the fuck you’re going to manage it, you have things that have to get done.
Those things might suddenly feel meaningless, pointless, a waste of your time, but I think we all learn the hard way that the world keeps turning even when our own world feels like it’s been put into a minuscule dark snow globe.
It’s okay. I’m just climbing out of my own trenches, and I’m lowering my hand down to lift you out too.
Now, first thing’s first: you need to give yourself permission to drop the non-urgent stuff and focus on what’s essential. Now this comes down to two things:
- Giving yourself space and time to deal with what’s going on and generally look after yourself. (This includes the basic things that feel so impossible when life feels like it’s crashing down around us: showering, eating meals, keeping in contact with friends, taking tablets etc)
- Making the decision that for now, you only need to do the absolute essential things
As people who do a lot of things, the second one might send off a huge alarm in your mind.
That’s okay - the resistance is very much normal. From experience, though, I can tell you that whether you make the decision consciously or not, it’s going to be the one thing that gives you the time and the space you need.
By essential, I mean the things that simply HAVE to get done.
If you work for yourself, that’s looking at your work schedule and working out where you have flexibility and what deadlines you absolutely can’t change (more on this later). If you’re employed, it’s making sure that you’ve done what you can to take the time off you need (all work manuals/HR policies should give you information about compassionate leave/sick leave etc) or if you’re not able to/want to take time off, it’s about getting friendly with this idea of doing the bare minimum while things feel tough. (I know this is scary and uncomfortable for us overachievers, but we have to choose ourselves first).
If you’re not employed, it’s about looking at your daily activities, and schedule and seeing what can go. It’s about being really honest to the people around you what’s going on and asking for help where people can help you.
(A side note about asking for help - the people who love and support you really do mean it when they ask you to let them know if there’s anything they can do. They want to help you and they want to feel useful, so if there is something they can do, please let them).
It all comes down to these two simple notions:
1.Do what you have to.
2. Done is better than perfect (if you can get away with it, do the bare minimum)
If you’re a creative…
and you don’t feel like creating or you’re unable to create, try to find a way to be okay with that and trust that it will return. Believe me, I know how scary it is, but sometimes you just need to give it a bit of space and put a bit of faith in your creative magic. (I really recommend Liz Gilbert’s book Big Magic if you’re looking to cultivate a really good relationship with your creativity).
If you work for yourself…
do the work you must. That might look like having honest conversations with clients who have a more flexible timeline, or it might look like revising scopes of work. If this isn’t possible, aim to get to a place where you’re doing only the things that you have to. You’ll have time for the more fecky/niggly admin-y things at a later date - now is just for reaching the deadlines you absolutely have to meet, and giving yourself grace at the same time.
If you’re trying to get projects off the ground…
and something happens right in the middle, remember that there will be time to get back to it. Try not to fall into the ‘everything happens for a reason’ trap and feel that you’re destined to not start/fail. If you’re able to, write down a quick note of where you’re at and your ideas so you know where you were when you get back to it.
This situation, exactly as it is right now, is only temporary.
You might find your life is going to be a lot different than it was before - you might find that you have to carve out a new normal, but it’s not always going to feel this hard. And you don’t have to sort out and work out how everything is going to be right now.
For one, that’s impossible. With all the planning in the world, you don’t know how you’re going to feel and unfortunately magic eight balls are still a pile of shit.. A lot of the time it’s just a case of taking it day by day, and making the roadmap as you go along.
Secondly, now isn’t the time for big decisions. Instead, focus on looking after yourself the best you can, being there for yourself as well as the people who need you, and what you can do to make your life a bit easier right now.
Take the pressure off, my love. Life is tough enough as it is.
It really is okay to say no to things and to do only the absolutely essential things right now.
And if you’re in the need of some gentle reminders for when life goes wonky, I’ve written some here that might help.
Although it doesn’t feel like it right now while things aren’t necessarily go back to being the same, things will be okay. You are so much stronger than you think.