A couple of weeks ago I talked about how I was going to work through my goal setting process for this year and then…suddenly realized I’m a little burned out creatively. After a brief Twitter break which was super helpful and isn’t quite over yet, I remembered I wanted to talk about the little note card I keep in my planner…which ended up gathering dust during the weird am I working from home or in the office this week limbo I find myself in.
It’s really important for creatives to establish guardrails around their time and energy. We tend to go wooooshing off chasing ideas and opportunities. Sometimes it’s hard to keep ourselves in check and we end up giving/doing/committing to too much. And the battle we have with our inner critics is FIERCE.
So let’s chat about rules of engagement!
I’ve updated these rules quite a bit since I shared this notecard because the one on the back you can’t see in this photo is: I will discard any of these rules at any time without warning if they become too restrictive.
I also needed to add some new ones because I found myself stepping in the same damn holes over and over again.
Before we go into all that though, let me tell you a big secret. Lean in closely and pay attention please.
You have to slow down.
YES. You have to slow the fuck down.
Not forever. I’m not saying go turtle speed on everything you’re working on right now. So much to do, so little time! I’m just saying pick one part of your day where you intentionally move slowly. Slowly enough to observe what you’re doing and to listen to the thoughts banging around in your head.
(Now that I think about it, my brain sounds a lot like a Twitter feed most days. Hmmm.)
What are you seeing?
What are you hearing?
What are you feeling?
Write it down from the perspective of someone who’s observing what you do/think/feel. Give yourself the gift of being impartial and withholding judgment.
If you spot any unsupportive patterns, think about adopting a rule that might help you avoid falling into that trap.
Lemme give you an example.
One of my big unhelpful patterns is working without regard to food, rest, or sleep. I can accomplish a lot when I’m hyperfocused! When I’m done, I’m hungry, sore, and exhausted. This would be ok in small doses. But when I’m focused on a project I take this beyond anything reasonable. I allow myself to get SO hungry, SO sore, and SO exhausted that sometimes I need to take a few days off to recover. Those few days feel wasted even though I understand how important rest is. I’d be happier if I could spread my effort across a few days rather than beating myself up. So I made a rule:
I will not work to exhaustion.
Even if I don’t follow this rule 100% of the time, setting this guardrail and reminding myself of it daily slows me down enough to think about what I’m about to do.
Is it a perfect system? NOPE. Hence the recent burnout I’m experiencing.
Does it help? YEP. Remembering I had rules prompted me to take a break and assess how to move forward.
So! I thought I’d share my updated rules of engagement as inspiration for you to create your own rules…cause trust me, you need them. Protip: It helps to phrase your rules as “I will” statements, those are extra sticky in your brain. #science
- I will create before I consume.
- I will slow down.
- I will not work to exhaustion.
- I will decide what is enough for me.
- I will remain focused on my process, not the outcome.
- I will follow my interests.
- I will find and validate my path.
- I will withhold judgment of my work.
- I will not take criticism from anyone whose advice I wouldn’t seek.
- I will create value, not noise.
- I will look for what’s working.
- I will not outsource my definitions of success to others.
- I will hold space for other people to be as they are.
- I will show up and allow myself to be seen as I am.
- I will not assign meaning to neutral events.
- I will slow down and consider whether what I’m about to do or say is coming from a place of fear.
- I will remember that 99% of the things I worry about resolve themselves without my intervention.
I hope this list was a helpful leaping off point for you to create some of your own rules of engagement! Feel free to share yours with me on the bluebird app @jenjustjen3 ❤
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