In a Weird Place…

In a Weird Place…

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

There’s a soccer ball rolling around in my head. That’s how it feels. Or that’s how it would feel if a soccer ball were small enough to fit in my head. The ball tilts and bumps against the inside of my skull.

The brain fog’s been bad these last few weeks. Mostly in the morning.

Click-click-click. The puppy chews on her antler toy. I’m both annoyed at the distraction and grateful that she’s occupied and not detaching the baseboards from the wall…

I’m in a weird place. I spent the last four months working on Multi-Passionate Must-Haves, which just ended. The last month has been filled with many small challenges and expenses, topped off by a family tragedy that I’m not going to go into. (Don’t worry, I’m okay.)

It’s been rocky but I feel like I’ve finally made it through. I’m ready to say goodbye to one season and welcome in another.

The thing is…what do I do with my time now? Do I finally review my corporate tax return that my accountant sent me? Do I take some time off to practice self-care? Do I schedule a consultation with my naturopath? Do I finally finish editing the collection of poetry that the puttypeep submitted months ago? Do I get back into screenwriting and pull out my pilot script? My heart has been aching to do that.

Yes, to all of it. Yes.

But where do I start? It’s really easy to know what to focus on when you have a massive project with a deadline and several urgent life situations you need to respond to. Last week, it was clear how to spend my time. This week? Not so much.

I could schedule my week out in detail to make sure I fit everything in. Or–and I think this is the right approach–I could go with the flow for a while, go easy on myself, and have low expectations. If I want to blow off a morning of work to go swimming in the ocean, I can do that (so freaking grateful that that is even an option!).

Maybe what I need is some kind of combo of a bit of structure each day, along with large chunks of free time and lots of leeway for messing with all of it.

I’m curious how you deal with the end of a big project/challenging season in your life. Do you get organized right away and jump into new projects? Or do you let things flow more naturally and see where they go? Let me know in the comments!

Finally, it’s good to be back. Whenever MPMH comes around, I have to morph into promo mode. I try to do that in an authentic way. I was really proud of the bundle this year, so it wasn’t hard. But it still takes a bit of a tole. I miss writing about whatever I want to write about and connecting and being vulnerable. So here we are. I’m back and looking forward to catching up with you guys and hearing about what you’re up to. Please, share your experiences in the comments!

xo Emilie

Emilie Wapnick is the founder and creative director at Puttylike and The Puttytribe, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is the author of the award-winning book, How to Be Everything (HarperCollins), and her TED talk has been viewed 5 million times. Learn more about Emilie here.

44 Comments

  1. Nela Dunato says:

    It’s a very familiar feeling…

    I go with the flow all the way, and see where my inspiration calls me to go. Usually it ends up as relaxation (yay beach!), self care, and reading a sci-fi novel, followed by an art project.

    What I absolutely need to do for work will happen one way or another, but not more than that. I can’t go on with such an intense tempo all the time.
    Rest is good! You’ve deserved it :)

  2. Hmm, good question…

    What I find that works for the best is taking a break of a couple of weeks. However, that’s easier said than done because I always just jump right back on my next project – there’s always a next project – and continue the loop like this until I get completely burnt out and end up having to take a few months off.

    Wish I was kidding. So yeah, I’m working on the whole balancing thing, I guess, and even just inserting mini-breaks every day. Wherever there’s energy spent, there has to be energy gained.

    Thanks again for the musthaves fun! And… *hug*.

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Violeta. A few weeks off sounds both heavenly and also kind of crappy, since I genuinely WANT to do all the things. :) I guess that’s just the #multipotentialitesdilemma

    • Asya says:

      I totally feel with ya on working so hard persistently that you just crash and burn and end up taking months off. After it happened to me, I realized, as you said, that taking about 2 weeks off between projects, or from time to time, is so much more effective than jumping from one thing to the next, only to completely annihilate your energy and momentum at the end. Self-care is so important, but we live in a worldwide culture where you always have to be working or hustling to be seen as productive. It’s critical to shut off all the background noise and focus on taking care of ourselves and our minds.

  3. Craig Kulyk says:

    I take a break and ease my way back in but always keep a few key (morning) habits in place to keep up some momentum and self-care (stretching, meditation, gratitude). Sorry to hear it’s been an intense period for you Emilie, great job on the MPMH sale, and I hope the family sitch simmers down for you.

  4. Sarah says:

    I am going through the a time like this right now!

    After my business finally becoming profitable at the start of the year after several years work, and finishing an intense piano exam the end of last year, and having left a band recently… i have been at a lost.

    I think I may be a bit burnt out because all the projects I can think of (getting back into art, maybe another band, writing video game music) sounds too full on in my mind and I just cannot get motivated. And that is weird for me not to be motivated!

    I think some rest and some dabbling in a non-serious way is needed… thanks for the article, im glad its not just me! :)

  5. Andy says:

    I find that I just need to let things flow, but because all of the things I want to do are just ‘nice to haves’, it means that I often don’t motivate myself to putting a plan or idea into action. I should try setting time aside for specific tasks more!

  6. Asya says:

    After one phase or project is over, I choose to unwind and get back in touch with myself before jumping on to any new project. Of course, at the back of our mind there is the constant nagging of the urgency of getting things done, or doing work-related “stuff” to feel productive. I choose to shut down all those noises, emphasizing to myself that I come first. I then spend some time (about 2 weeks) going over everything that happened, doing things I enjoy too calm my ever-working mind, prioritizing what I want to achieve. This enables me to start with a fresh mind and renewed purpose, rather than just jumping in because “there’s so many things to do!”

    I’ve just done this recently, and it resulted in a lot of personal breakthroughs. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of spending time alone doing NOTHING but getting back in touch with yourself and your purpose. It’s okay to relax and, in fact, it’s necessary! After doing so, we are able to start on a clean slate and be incomparably more effective and dedicated than we would have been if we had jumped from one thing to another because of that unhealthy stressful nagging in the back of our minds.

  7. Paola Pia Culla says:

    I can’t simply stop after a big project. I feel dizzy and sometimes also.. sick…even if I’m satisfied of results. Like after a super christmas dinner. Too much in – and too quickly, simply. So I often do light work, provide basic info for new projects, shipshape office, contact people to schedule new steps… I clean as well. It’s like to slow down. I prefer this way. Bye!

  8. I find that in-between stage hard! I usually drift around for a while until something shifts in me. I think lately I try to just accept being in that transient place instead of hurrying it along (that would be my tendency!). I’ve found for myself that the liminal stage can be great for creativity!

  9. Elise says:

    Emilie, I had two immediate responses to your dilemma: first, I marveled again at how gracefully articulate you are and second, I completely related to your dilemma.

    Recently I read that many people have a natural tendency to stay busy. Busyness can be a distraction as well as a necessity. I keep myself running at top speed but recently I am becoming more self aware to not burn myself out in my constant effort to be productive and therefore “a good and valuable person.” I schedule “down” time to take care of myself—-take evenings off and weekends, for example. I never did this before but I noticed that I am more efficient when I have rested—-it’s like flexing a muscle—-muscled need to move in the opposite direction to be stretched and ready to flex again.

    Very sorry to hear about your tragedy. Especially at those difficult times it is alright to go jump in the ocean, binge watch a favorite television series or do anything that pampers yourself. Today is the third anniversary of my father’s death for example. He was a difficult man and I have strong ambivalent feelings especially on this day but I woke up determined to be especially kind to myself and do something fun for the day.

  10. Steph says:

    I just finished my freshman year of college, and I’m going through a similar phase right now! I’m finding that it is worthwhile to relax and recharge after a period of stress, but after a week or so I feel like I should be working on something.
    The solution I’m trying out right now is to map out a schedule at the beginning of the week (even though I don’t really have to!). This helps me leave space for relaxing and plan time to work on creative projects – without necessarily having the pressure of a deadline.

  11. Anna W. says:

    I read that and thought you were talking about me. After trying to go with the flow for almost a month now, I found it hasn’t been working. So I have scheduled myself. I have scheduled time to work, time for self-care, time to play, and time that is not allocated for anything. I wouldn’t say that I feel back to my old self yet but I feel the fog is lifting and I am accomplishing more than what I needed to and am building some momentum toward a comfortable mix. Good luck on emerging from your fog and I hope all your personal issues have the best possible outcome.

  12. Ashley says:

    All the comments above sound like me too. I just finished my last rotation in nursing school (in my 40s) and am already looking at what’s next. It is hard for me to appreciate the ‘end’ of one project before starting another. I have to make myself reflect on the growth of that project and where I was at the beginning, to appreciate and enjoy the end. It also helps me see how I started that project, and where following inspiration rather than ‘scheduling’ or a ‘formula’ helps. I never, absolutely never, schedule self-care. Unless you count going out with friends, which has proven to be my best stress-reliever, and talking about my ambivalence and jumpiness helps.

  13. I always go with the flow and follow the nudge that feels the best. Practically, that means I stay consciously connected with my true/higher self who created the program and mission for my experience of this lifetime and follow its guidance. My emotional guidance system aka body helps me immensely to do that, since I learned how to understand it and truly communicate with it.

  14. Glena Wright says:

    I go with flow of life. Trying not to overthink. Letting each moment arrive exactly as it is. Whatever responsibilities I want to address arise naturally in the fullness of each moment. I embrace mindfulness in each moment, each action receives my full gratefulness and non-thinking, non-judging awareness. Accepting what is fully with my bnb whole being.

  15. Marco Barbero says:

    Hello Emilie and all multipotenziali, I feel right now the ball in my head and sometimes it is frustrating to hear this ball, to organize my week to come, it is better to avoid listening to the ball and be concrete giving priority to the most important things and one at a time.
    I think this is the best thing !!
    Good week to all and warm greetings from Italy !!

  16. Kristen says:

    For the last two weeks, I have been feeling the same way, and when I opened your email this morning, I had a sigh of relief knowing that I’m not the only one that deals with this feeling of open lull after a big project or busy period. For me, I have found gratitude in the gift of time and space after a huge project. It is very hard for me to indulge in free time; I enjoy staying busy with the projects I’m passionate about. Right now, I have decided to take some time to reflect on this past nine months, and turn to self care. I think adding in half structure with room for flow is a great idea. I’ve found that there are seasons for everything, and perhaps this season is asking for more time and space to reflect and prepare for what is to come. Thank you for making space for being able to read how others approach this! I know you’ll find your groove, and YES to taking time for swimming in the ocean! You’ll find more answers and inspiration from the nourishing waters and salty air!

  17. Cindy says:

    Rest from productivity.
    It may not come easy for us, multi-doers, but I think it’s exactly what is needed. I’ve been on the go-go-go for a long time. Working a corporate job, I get four weeks vacation that I spread throughout the year. Unfortunately it’s not enough to really unplug. I often find myself planning my return! After a few brutal months, I got a gift of getting three months off. Sure, I had a list of things I want to do but my Self had other ideas. I went with the flow and found I was rejecting things that required “work.” I couldn’t get myself to start on projects nor do simple activities like read or watch dramas. First three weeks I allowed myself to enjoy the unproductive time but then had it in my head to get something done, even if it’s just one thing off my list. I knew this time for myself is short and I thought I wanted to have something to show for at the end of the time. Family and friends also were encouraging me to take advantage and do what I’ve wanted to do but couldn’t due to work. Without knowing I think that expectation created restlessness because my Self wanted nothing to do but disengage mentally.
    I heard me. I am now starting my third month and have come to embrace true rest. I’ve accomplished nothing significant but enjoyed extra long and frequent walks with my dog, sleeping in, drinking my coffee slowly and perfecting Bolognese sauce in the InstaPot.

    If you have the luxury of time off, I highly recommend taking a break from you and don’t be productive. Your regular scheduled program will be on soon enough.

  18. Chad Dembski says:

    Have actually wanted to write for a long time as I have throughly enjoyed your weekly emails. I find your ability to balance personal thoughts and feelings while offering practical solutions to having multiple diverse interests and projects super inspiring. Here are my thoughts;
    For me what has helped is realizing that both high organization and going with the flow can work together. For me it is more about what needs to be done, looking at the facts of the task to be accomplished and not so much about how I feel about it. I find not judging myself is the key ingredient, the guilt feelings are not useful for me and only waste my time. Same with feeling any shame about not accomplishing any projects or tasks. There are often many factors that go into something not being done or not going as well as we expected.
    Swimming in the ocean is needed to accomplish tax’s, a long walk in the forest is sometimes the same as plowing through a pile of emails as it is doing work, just in another form.

  19. Susan Lombardo says:

    Hi Emilie,

    I’m reminded of the poem “Fire” by Judy Sorum Brown. It’s about having breathing space in life. Here is a link – scroll to the bottom to see the poem: https://www.judysorumbrown.com/blog/breathing-space

    As she says, when building a fire it is the space between the logs that is as important as the logs themselves.

  20. Montez says:

    The sheer volume of projects has me almost paralyzed. So….Im at the beach, crocheting, practicing calligraphy, ordering supplies and writing down what I got done. All of the accomplishments aren’t huge, but collectively I got a lot done while feeling like I was on vacation.

  21. Joe says:

    Hi Emilie

    Congratulation on task completed! The hardest part of being a multi-potent person is letting go of the project we pour our efforts into.
    Working as a seasonal temporary as a biological research technician traveling around the country in six month stints, the loss of a project is always a few steps away or behind. When finishing a gig reconnecting with old friends and a hiking trip to my favorite lake is how we reset the clock.
    Nature is a great healer of our wounded soul and when we suffer a loss time is needed to remind our selves to live again. It sound like its time for you and the pup to kick a little sand, watch the waves roll in and find that special place to have a great picnic. The tax guy will have to wait till Monday.

  22. Bob says:

    I go through a number of projects in a year. Engineering just works that way. Finish up one, go onto the next. Obviously, I take time off as I need it. The way I focus on the next project starts while I’m still working on the first project. I get familiar with what’s coming up and start putting the pieces in place so I can get a running start. Simultaneously, I also backtrack and check on projects that are on hold. I have no choice but to focus on several things at once. But I also have an obligation to myself to take a break here and there to clear my head. I suggest you take a day to hit the ocean. And then a half a day to focus on what you want and the other half to organize and get the projects that need to be done. Then pick a half a day to work on one and then the other half, another or just focus a whole day to one project. Keep a steady schedule which repeats itself and allows you a day off here and there to recharge.

  23. Kaye says:

    Yes! The struggle is real. You’ve articulated so much of what I feel at these times. Usually I try to schedule a day off – whatever THAT means. Maybe a do-nothing day. No SHOULDs. Often I go with the flow – and intentionally ask myself what I most WANT to do – and sometimes what do I most want to HAVE DONE. Sometimes I find myself making a TA-DA list – where I write down the things I am doing so that I can celebrate my productivity – rather than a to-do list.

    Lately I have been getting more intentional about taking time to listen to the question – What do I really want today? What would FEEL good? What would relax me or help me rest? Or what would make me happy? Or what would cause me to celebrate? I like to celebrate.

  24. LDM says:

    My favourite quote from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise for this reason:”You need to get lost a good bit before [you] can be found.” aka embrace it! Head into it, breathe into it, feel into it. And relax. Think: I’m now getting lost on purpose in order to find my newly emerged self / personality / what’s-next. Just try it =)

  25. Stefan says:

    Hi Emilie,

    I feel ya. I have a couple of soccer balls in my head. There also might be a few tennis balls, a golf ball and a football. Lol!

    I found a Journal that helps me both create structure AND flexibility via time blocking and reiterating your goal. It’s called The Best Self Journal.

    I also like the idea that Tim Ferris has which is to block out only 2-3 hours to get one big thing for the day done. You can hear about it on his podcast – The episode is a short one, but I can’t seem to find it anymore so here is the written version: https://tim.blog/2013/11/03/productivity-hacks/

    The point is how he decides how to pick the ONE THING that is most important for today, and he only dedicates 2-3 hours to it. The rest of the day is for less important things like making comments on blogs ;)

  26. Annie says:

    Oh my goodness, I’ve been feeling the same way! It’s been the “end of a season” for me since roughly January and I spent some time floundering, not sure what to do next. I decided to do exactly what you’re talking about, just relax and go with the flow, see where the inspiration leads me. I have a day job that’s my structured part of my schedule, and have just let things unfold naturally elsewhere. I can’t say I’v made huge progress on any one thing, but I do feel like I’ve allowed myself to recover after a tumultuous few years.

    Thank you for sharing what so many of us are feeling and trying to find our way through! It’s nice to know we’re not alone. :)

  27. Sherri says:

    First I stay in structure mode and try to make the little things is life more complicated and worthy of all that structure because the void is terrifying.

    Then I get exhausted and cry and eat bad food.

    Then I finally get to self care and recharge by being away from people and reading something undemanding, or crafting or sewing.

    Then I promise myself next time I’ll skip straight to self care :)

    Thanks for your site & book, I’ve had a really horrendous couple of years and you’ve been a big support through it.

  28. Johan says:

    Everybody is constraint by the flow of time. That is a lineair path. When I try to do too many things in parallel on that path, I get frustrated, because there to many jumps from activity to activity. So I need some focus/flow time to be productive. I use parts of the Agile Results method of JD Meier, especially choosing 3 things I need to do at the beginning of each day. But I also reservate empty blocks of 2 to 4 hours in which I do what ever I want. Mostly sports and relaxation (beach, sauna or even sleep). But I admit, after years it is still a struggle to manage all the things I wanna do.

  29. Hannah says:

    So many projects competing for attention and needing some fun time necessary too? What to do, where to go? Welcome to my world! For me, once I have reached a big deadline and submitted, I find that I do need a little breathing space. I have never had the luxury of allowing myself very much, usually just a half day. Do you know what? That’s enough. After that I am normally ready to pick things up and go again. Or at least ready to start plotting my next move.

  30. Jørgen Dahl Toldsted says:

    I will be unstructured after a big project. Partly as a counter reaction that creates balance and satisfies the anarchistic part of me.

    But also because the adventure often lies in discovering what will happen when you go on your journey without a goal. I enjoy that I can not put pictures on my future situation.

  31. Marco says:

    Hey Emilie!

    Usually, when I finish anything (a book I loved, a videogame I spent hours playing, a big working project) I find myself in a limbo: a part of me wants to just feel the spleen, the nostalgia, embrace the feeling of having to let go… the other part just wants to dive into the next project :D But usually I0m not able to just jump ahead in another BIG thing; more often than not whatever I start right after does not have kick; it takes some time until I build again enough enthusiasm and commitment to start something big.

    As for the planning part, after reading your book and embracing being a multipotentialite I tend to not plan: I know my deadlines (for work), my goals (for hobbies), I just put all the activities into the pot and do what I feel more inspired to do on each moment of the day. Yeah, I’m in the “not sequential” part of the spectrum! :D

    A hug from Italy!

    Marco

    P.S. If there’s any other Italian MP over there, let’s catch up!

  32. Tom Franov says:

    Hi Emilie,

    Sorry to hear you had a bad few weeks. I came across this article at random, and immediately thought about you. It is about resilience, you seem to be resilient, based on your story. The article is from Fast Company, thought I would share it:

    Secrets of the Most Resilient People

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40483677/secrets-of-the-most-resilient-people

  33. Alan says:

    Emilie

    Take your body down to the ocean and lay in the tumbling surf like a log rolling up on the beach. That will cleanse you

    Alan

  34. Ellen says:

    I so know this feeling Emilie. And I used to be a straight onto the next thing person, but am realising we need to give ourselves space. I think giving yourself the time to be flexible and free, and to go swimming in the sea is the BEST thing. Then eventually something will naturally start to occupy your time and pick up momentum, but no need to force it :)

  35. Maryske says:

    I know how that feels… One job finished, and you know you have to start looking for the next – only you don’t have the energy for it. Which means you’re just lounging around doing small things or nothing at all, and by the end of the day, you can’t even account for what you’ve done that day. Which tends to make me feel pretty guilty – both on the lack of job searching and on the lack of properly “utilizing” any free hours.

    But browsing through the comments here, I think I’m going to try consciously granting myself those two weeks first, before launching into the next job search. See how that works out for me!

    Btw, for what it’s worth, I know these promo posts are a part of your making an income, but to be honest, I’ve come to skip reading those ones by now. I like your ‘normal’ posts (like this one) much and much better! :-)

  36. Florian says:

    I have (almost) come to peace with trusting the process. So when I have nothing to do anymore I just relax, take longer tea time, go to a museum, then I suddenly find myself looking at videos of a new guitar pedal, then more about the ones I have , then I start to play with them again and suddenly I’m recording music. Another time it will be the same about photography or whatever.

    I’m also ok with the fact that my interest rotate so I don’t try to do all at once. It seems it takes longer to do things but I think at the end of the year it’s the same result, minus the stress.

    Finally I’ve realized that there is nothing to achieve. Just experience life.

    ?

    Florian

  37. Bee says:

    I need help. Will I ever be happy? Being a multipotentialite is rare and cool. And as an INFJ (world’s 1%), even cooler but I have felt like it’s a curse especially when I seem not to be progressing. I would rather email Emilie but she may not respond due to large volumes of emails and I get it.

    I am a strong scientist (medicine, epidemiology, clinical research)
    also a strong creative (creative writer, speaker, life coach, singer, impressionist, acting…..amongst others)
    I am not left brained or right. I am 50/50, Very strong in both. In medical fields, I don’t seem to fit as most think I am confused
    They said people like us are called multipotentialite/renaissance
    I have a strong interest in entrepreneurship as well as creative problem solving/innovation. Ran a retail business in the past and consulted on a few healthcare innovative projects
    Not one thing calls me strongly…maybe reading and writing….as I love to learn
    I have been unemployed which seems like a dominant challenge for folks like us. No one job seem exciting. I have tried it.
    My last role was a national research with a reputable world org and got a peer-reviewed scientific journal out of it, but I don’t feel like a “god” with it.
    Most people are surprised or impressed by my work…. I wonder if there is something wrong that I don’t feel that way.
    I have the most pleasure when I am able to use all sides of me the scientific and creative side and figured the only way to do that is having my own thing, like running my own business.

    However, I still want to be a professional and an entrepreneur/business owner as well. I figured consulting as a career would solve that as it involves critical thinking, creative problem solving and heavy data mining among others which I can do, and excel with right training and mentorship. Not been able to get a role so far….so I am thinking what do I do. I have a few business ideas to launch and been unable to since I need income to at least take care of bills to be in a better mental state to create and focus. I mean I’ll take any remote opportunity. If you have a job I can do. Today I am feeling a bit distressed about my future. My family don’t even know or accept the creative side of me. And oh between it was dad’s order to be a doctor.

  38. Andrew says:

    Hi Emilie!

    I’ve been working with several projects big or small for 3 years now. I am working now as an art director for a Below-the-Line advertising agency. I take them in order of what’s needed to get done ASAP and what are the other projects that can be reschedule their deadlines. Finishing them one at a time and setting time that it must be done already. Focus is also a great factor, closing any social media distractions putting my phone away and do the work!

  39. Hiya, I get your problem and I would definitely relax, take a break. I’m with Craig in the comments above “I take a break and ease my way back in but always keep a few key (morning) habits in place to keep up some momentum and self-care (stretching, meditation, gratitude).”

    My problem though (lifelong and I am over 50!) Is too many balls rolling in my head while trying to juggle 4 in my hands. I have so many ideas all in different niches I just don’t allow myself to focus.
    I am now having to make money online ( due to a muscle disorder that make physical work impossible) I would love some suggestions from others here PLEASE. I can write blog posts till the cows come home but can’t seem to monetize all the work I do. I have 10,000 followers in one niche but need to earn money and not sure how with my short attention span. Already finding 5 new ideas while still finishing the last video or facebook group post etc. I have spread myself too thin.

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