runner and clocks

Too Many Ideas and Not Enough Time

I have a few unfinished projects that I’d like to complete.

Book and blog ideas pop into my head. Unlabeled and unedited photo’s clutter my phone, and half-finished scrapbooks wait to be completed. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to read all the books on my Kindle. My most recent quilt project mocks me from the back room. I know if I had a couple of days, I could mark, layer, baste, machine-quilt, bind, and label it. It’s nearly finished. If I only had enough time.

If I find a new book, I seem to forget I’m only partially finished with the book I’m currently reading. So, when I found the book, Finished, Give Yourself the Gift of Done, by Jon Acuff, of course I started reading it immediately. You can find my review here. (I’m sure I’ll get back to the other one eventually. I won’t repeat what happened to the jogging idea, the eating vegan idea, or the publishing a novel idea.)

The problem with this pattern is that I’m constantly frustrated by the growing list of things I want to finish. I don’t mean to ignore a project. Something super important prevents me from returning to it. A pressing deadline takes precedence, maybe a class only offered at that time, a gift that must be finished for a birthday or holiday, or even a fun event such as a vacation, trip, or the arrival of visitors.

The first project is set aside to provide time for the critical item. However, the project doesn’t disappear. It sits in its assigned waiting area like a sad, ignored puppy. Each time I walk by the pile, I hear it whimper for attention. My life starts to feel like a giant collection of Pinterest fails.

I imagine someone like Martha Stewart or Oprah have ‘people’ to complete their ideas. I saw a news report that said if Jeff Bezos sends an e-mail with a single question mark, the recipient puts his or her entire life on hold until the problem is resolved. In my house, it’s just me-one person with too many ideas and too little time.

I tell myself if only I had more time, I could accomplish all these projects, plus my regular chores. I might be suffering from what Acuff calls planning fallacy. My estimate of what I can accomplish tends to be overly optimistic. He offers some solid advice, cut my goal in half, or double my timeline. Do I want to lose ten pounds in two weeks? Try to lose five or allot four weeks. I’ll be more likely to succeed and reach my goal. Doesn’t that sound like a promising idea?

I might also suffer from what he calls the “what’s next” issue. He says our brains love distraction and what’s next will always look more interesting than what’s now. I don’t need to despair. He suggests I use the shiny new idea as fuel. I could keep a list of interesting projects to begin AFTER I finish the current one. I like his suggestion, if I can remember to implement it.

Constantly feeling like I don’t have enough time stresses me. I rush through activities that I’m supposed to enjoy. Acuff’s book encouraged me to stop and choose how I want to spend my available time. The truth is that when I need to, I find the time.

This probably isn’t the last of Acuff’s advice you’ll read about in this blog. I highly recommend you read his book for yourself. What do you do when you feel stressed about unfinished projects?

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