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management

Just Make Progress

I’m normally a “get stuff done” kind of person. Early in my career I had an attitude that it didn’t matter what you tossed at me, I was going to get it done on time or early no matter what.

Over the past several months I’ve not been able to keep up that pace. At all. I don’t have all the why answers figured out. But I do have a few things I’ve been thinking about, not as excuses, more like personal understandings that things are permanently changing for the better.

In short, I’ve got to figure out how to live life differently within my capacity.

About Capacity

  1. I do have a capacity. I do actually get full. I used to try to see how much I could take on. The more I took on the better I felt about myself. This was a thing of pride… and also a thing of coming up from poverty. I knew I could take on a lot, I’d proven time and again that I could… and frankly… that capacity felt limitless because I could always find more. I could always make myself a bit more hungry than someone else. But that tank isn’t infinitely bottomless. There really is a time when you fill up the tank. I can’t get to everything because I’ve just got too much to do.
  2. Circumstances. Some of what’s been different the past 8-9 months has been a very big transition to our new house. From house hunting to mortgage stuff to moving to making adaptations to make the new house work for our family, this season has meant that I couldn’t push past capacity and steal time/energy from other things to take on more. When my work day is over, it’s over. Off to Home Depot or whatever.
  3. Self-care. I’m not 25 years old anymore. I don’t want to be 25 years old anymore. That’s not just energy, that’s about self-care. When I would take on more and more and more I started to hear from the shadows of myself… “Is this success? Is this what you need to feel successful?” From those shadows I had to make some changes. At 25 I had a lot to prove to the outside world. Pushing 40 and I’ve got a lot more to prove to myself about what kind of life I want to view as successful for the next 20 years of work/life stuff. Working unlimited, always taking on more, isn’t good self-care and it’s not the success I want for myself.
  4. Family first means work second, period. Look, I am not going to miss it because I’m too busy with work or anything. My family is the my most important thing to invest in for this phase of life. If I screw it up now I’ll regret it the rest of my life. If that means I put a cap on what I can do, okie doke… that’s what I’m going to do. This isn’t that hard of a choice.
  5. Slow down to grow. This last thing is the only thing that’s specifically “about” my work. One of the things that I’ve been learning as we (the Cartel) continue to grow is that my desire to take on too much doesn’t help us grow, it actually keeps us small. I think I used to believe “To be the best you have to beat the rest.” But now I think, “To be the best you’ve got to be more focused than the rest.” You grow by building capacity, not by backfilling a lack of actual capacity with faux capacity.

When You’re Past It

All of that is to ask this: When you’re living life past your capacity what do you do? This is uncharted territory for me so I’ve had to learn this.

The answer is that when you’re past capacity you can’t give up, because if you give up you’ll just drown. Instead, just make progress every single day you can.

I believe heavily in the flywheel concept. Big projects are easy to keep moving if you just keep them moving. But if you let them stop? It takes a lot of effort to restart.

Hence, just keep everything moving the best you can.

Just. make. progress. 

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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