Choose to temporarily let go of goals to make space for others

Image by Denise Husted from Pixabay

I deliberately stopped writing for this blog and site a few months back.

I was just not in the position to share a bit of myself with the wider world.

Or rather, my mental bandwidth was not large enough to continue sharing.

I was enrolled in a Certificate in University Teaching and Learning and was severely behind my assignments. These assignments all required writing. Eight writing assignments in total. Some required video creation and editing.

Work was killing me too. Our department is small. We are seven in total. We need eleven persons. I and another lecturer had too many examination duties to see to. My day job is all about writing in some form…letters, emails, memos, exam papers and solutions, lessons, presentation slides… just to name some.

Decide to let narrow your focus is self-care

I decided to let writing for this blog and website go for the time being.

It was not an easy decision. I had been toying with the idea for a few weeks before deciding.

So what exactly made the decision final for me? I happened to read my year’s goals.

My annual goals align with the current state of my life and my career. Completing the certificate program was one of the major ones I wanted to complete. In fact, my contract period required that I complete it. And, after all the problems I have had in the past year (I did not write about these here), I was not going to repeat any courses in the program.

Simply, there was no redoing of this goal.

I could have attempted some courses of the program again…that option was available to all participants in the program and I could have made a valid argument to complete it in my next contract period. Instead, I chose not to take this option.

The certificate program goal had to be completed. There was no escape.

I chose to temporarily set aside another goal.

But, as a past high achiever, I could guilt myself for failing at my goals. I knew this and planned for it.

I told myself that setting aside a goal was okay and that I was doing what I needed to do to reduce my stress.

Setting aside a goal temporarily was self-care.

It was not failure because I had the power to define what failure meant.

I chose to define success as narrowing my vision and focusing on a priority. My intention was to complete my program. I did not even think about passing the program because I knew from past experience that I needed to complete all assessments. I chose to complete these and the mere act of completing was my success.

Steal time, energy and space to work on your goal

I had to make the time, energy and space to work on the goal.

Time was the most important. I had two deadlines: a preferred one for the instructor and a final hard deadline. The first deadline was not doable. I was working toward the second deadline.

I had tried writing on evenings after work. Frankly, I do a poor job of writing when tired.

I had to ‘steal’ time for my assignments from work time. One benefit of being a full-time lecturer (assistant professor equivalent) is that you are expected to do research in addition to teaching. Time on research was redirected to working on my assignments.

The hardcore career assistant professors would say this was foolhardy. Maybe. But were they going to do my writing for me…whether for the certificate assignments or the research? Nope. Besides, the summer period was coming up and this is when we tend to get most of our research writing done. I needed my certificate assignments out of the way to focus on the research and preparation for the new semester during the summer.

Making the time during work was hard.

It is hard when you have multiple people to supervise and who report to you. They tend to find you.

One of my teaching assistants realized I disconnect the phone when I’m writing. She took me by surprise by knocking on my door. I usually allow the secretarial staff access in case of emergencies. I fell for my teaching assistant’s trick several times.

So, I made up a rule. I was not to answer the phone or knocks on my door while I was writing while I was in my office. Even to the secretarial staff.

I needed to use the time after work as well even though I was tired. But that time went to low energy tasks I could do at home: reading, brainstorming points for writing the next section, editing videos (evidence of teaching), and uploading videos to my website.

Anything related to planning, organizing, and ensuring I had my materials to write the next day was done during low energy times at home.

Crunch time to maximize doing the work

I am not superhuman to get everything done in just a few blocks of time.

I also needed to take about four days off from work, but not all in the same week.

It was crunch time.

I had no time for making breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or rather, I did not want to spend time on those things. I bought food the day before.

I did not want to spend one hour getting ready for work each morning. Don’t judge me. I take one hour to have a bath, put on makeup and fix my hair before I leave for work. I trimmed down to just a bath. No makeup or styling of hair on the days I stayed home.

The main thing was to input the work. You can only get results if you put effort into it. And effort takes time.

Would I do it again?

In the past two months, I rerouted time and energy from other goals and activities to complete one major career goal for myself. I used multiple spaces – my office and my home. I avoided distractions as far as possible. It was intense.

I burnt out afterward.

I had to get back to my normal duties as it was crunch time at work for the examination duties.

So I took a few days (weeks :)) off from writing new content.

I did not return to writing for this blog immediately or to research writing.

It was a deliberate choice not to write new content. I chose to recuperate.

I asked myself, would I let go of goals again?

Yes, if others were time-dependent and more relevant to that time of my life.

Would I work this intensely again behind one goal?

Yes, if the goal requires it.

Goals with a hard deadline and much work to be done need the extra time and energy to achieve them.

I am content for now. I completed an important goal for my career. I relaxed after putting in the work. Now I’m on to the next goal.

Now you examine your life for the goals that you need to focus on in the next couple of weeks. Yes, choose one goal within your control and complete it. I guarantee that you will feel much better than where you are at now. Finishing a relevant goal always brings immense satisfaction.

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