Those who risk going too far…


Towards the end of last year I found myself feeling like this piece of string. In fact, I didn’t have a thread left to hold me together. I see so many of my friends and colleagues travelling on the same path and it has given me inspiration to write this short piece about my personal experience with taking on too much.

Having made a few changes since then I can now look back on how I got myself to that point (in a now clearer state of mind) I can begin to understand my own unravelling.

I was working a full time day job and at night / weekends I was working a second and third job, one of them being a start-up business of my own, the other assisting mates wherever possible so that I could pay the bills my day job couldn’t… All while studying and writing exams among many other side projects and charity involvements.

After months on end of exposing myself to a lack of sleep, being too busy eat, too busy to exercise and mentally living in the future and not the present, all finally caught up!

Stick a fork in me, I’m done!

A fuse blew and there was nobody there to replace it. I had let it go on for so long there would be no quick remedy. I literally felt like Eskom. Running myself all day and all night with no maintenance. I had become incapacitated and useless. No decisions would be made or acted upon during this downtime. Everything I worked so hard for in the previous months and years was hanging in the balance; suffering the same fate as me.

While in Load Shedding mode, slack jawed with drool dripping out the side of my mouth, scrolling aimlessly through my newsfeed on Facebook trying to live vicariously through other people’s ability to lead happy and problem free lives with what seemed like an abundant amount of energy, I came across a quote by T.S Eliot:

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

Yes, I had risked going too far. I had known I was on the path long before I found my limit but I couldn’t find the discipline to stop myself. I was just a passenger while the dependency of wanting to be successful and not let others down drove me recklessly into a wall. And by the way it felt at the very end, I don’t think I was wearing a seatbelt.

On the upside

After reading Eliot’s words I felt a breath of renewed energy. I felt that through all this shit I had actually learnt something valuable and despite how unpleasant this all was, I had finally learnt my limits and because of that, I could do it all over again-  but this time I could do it without tripping the lights.  I am better able to identify the warning signs of taking on too much and at what capacity I can run continuously, and I listen to those around me.

How do you manage to do it all?

If you are hearing this question frequently from friends and colleagues, it’s a clear sign that you probably aren’t managing to “do it all” without sacrificing something VERY important. Take a moment to think about what that could be next time you hear that question. Don’t be a dick and take it as a compliment like I did. Use this “red flag” to analyse where you are and how you got there, what you had to give up and if it is sustainable.

My lessons learnt and my plan moving forward now stems from the understanding that:

I am not a machine

The ideal of human productivity is not acting like a machine. We need rest, relaxation, sleep and play in order to function optimally. And although you have read many books, blogs, biographies that all say the same simple thing “make time for yourself”, you can never ever hear it enough. Trust me when I say this: taking on too much and sacrificing your health to get that next mail out, leads to expectations of standards that may make you seem like the office hero. The reality is that your “office” will not be there to scrape you off the wall when you hit it.

Now go and do something that you love, something unrelated to work. Do it now and do it everyday. You will soon find that your efficiency at work will improve and you will get a lot more done in a shorter amount of time, which creates more time.

Jono Bruton

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