Hi, my name’s Eric, and I’m a work-obsessed musician. Like millions of freelancers around the globe, I find a tremendous amount of fulfillment in my work. In my case, it occasionally turns into an addiction.
Can I start with a bit of bragging? I have an amazing, smart wife. She sees things I don’t, and she sees them sooner than I do. She helped me to see for the first time probably ever that even though I do a lot of fun stuff and am very happy with career that I’m stressed quite a bit. Okay, stressed quite a lot.
It came to a head about two weeks ago when I had down time for once in my life, and had absolutely zero clue on what to do with it. Work was the only thing I found fun. That’s a terrible place to be when you have a beautiful wife, a 7 month old son, and two high energy siberian huskies.
It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being around them. I was just consumed with doing work, even though work was actually making the problem worse. I’d constantly be thinking about work when I was with them, which would stress me out since I wasn’t working, which made me not be fully present for what was going on in front of me.
If you’re a type A personality you can probably feel my pain. I love a bunch of things, and I try to shove them all into my life. I’m so busy stuffing activity into a packed schedule that I lose perspective. One of the things I’ve lost perspective on in the last few years has been what makes me happy.
The problem was that I’d lost perspective on how I best function as a person, not just a musician. I decided to make a small change: I started writing down a journal to try and help gain some perspective on how I work, and what keeps me sane.
Every night, right before I go to sleep, I open up a spreadsheet with this list of questions and answer them (it takes about 2 minutes usually):
How happy did you choose to be?
How happy was Sarah today?
How many people were you around?
Did you spend time in nature?
What was one thing that made you feel accomplished?
Did you pray/read the Bible?
What was the biggest stress moment today?
How can you help reduce the stress in this area?
What's the best thing that happened today?
What can you do to expand that happy moment?
How much physical pain were you in?
Did you play music you enjoyed?
This list of stuff will change over time, but these seem to be some of the key factors that contribute to how my mental outlook is for the day. If you’d like a copy of this, just click here to download it for free.
Since I’ve been keeping track I’ve seen a big changes in my perspective, and more importantly I’m starting to see correlations between some of my behavior and habits and how stressed/relaxed I am.
For instance, there have been three things that have consistently caused me stress in the last week that I can directly control: eating too much sugar late in the evening, not being aware enough of the communication (especially emotional) of those around me, and not allowing enough buffer time between projects. On the positive side, I’ve seen that I am at my happiest when I’ve spent time in nature for at least an hour each day, been around at least 3 people outside my family in a day, and worked on creatively satisfying projects.
I’ve got light years to go before I can say that I’ve made a long term dent in this, but I’m optimistic about where this can lead. Also, this isn’t a one-item-fixes-all solution, either. I’ve just found it to be a very useful way for me to become aware of what I’m actually doing each week to cause stress and happiness, and I’m excited about the path ahead.