How I’m trying to stop hurting myself by overreaching
Before starting, there’s a funny narrated version of this article on youtube, click here to check it out.
This is me in my mind:
“I can finish this in 10 minutes, this in another 15 minutes, this is gonna take me like an hour or so, and by the end of the week, I would have advanced on 15 projects. Accomplishing my intention of being a successful freelance illustrator/cartoonist/blogger/writer/super husband/super son/super cool dude in general”
And this is me in the real world:
“I don´t know how to begin with this. I’m out of inspiration. My head hurts a bit. I’m so tired. I’m so overwhelmed by all the things I’ve committed to do and now I can’t fulfill them. I’m just gonna see these few notifications on twitter and hope 5 hours not to pass without me accomplishing nothing”.
5 hours later
“Oh snap 5 hours passed and I’ve accomplished nothing”
And when this ball of not yet done chores and commitments gets big enough, I will wake up and be afraid to get up from the bed and face it.
Anxiety-paralysis is the point where I normally know I screwed up badly.
How do I get out of this at this point?
As a regular practice, I would end up shoving all my personal projects to a side and centering on paid projects and commissions. Because that way I can say:
“Hey, at least I’m making money”
to numb the shame of feeling incompetent.
But why is all this so harmful to me?
Well, it’s not hard to figure out I’ve got a Lack of Discipline
And for years I thought that it was my lack of discipline to DO all the things I committed to do.
But when I have just one project in my hands… I don’t have this problem.
I realized my problem is not the lack of discipline to somehow get superhuman levels of concentration that will allow me to do 12 daily different chores related to 120 simultaneous projects in one day without getting out of a specific time frame and repeat that for 42 consecutive weeks
My problem is the lack of discipline to commit to one thing at a time. To admit that I can’t do 10 different projects side by side and that’s ok.
When my to-do list for a day includes 12 things; I’m not thinking about the thing I’m doing while I’m trying to do it. I’m thinking about how quick I have to finish it if I pretend to do the other eleven things on time.
Pre-occupying about everything… and accomplishing nothing.
But when I have just one or two things to do in a day I can allow myself to fully expand on what I’m doing. Not thinking about finishing, but enjoying the process of doing.
And this whole phenomenon is… not new. This cycle of getting to a space where I have one single project and then start swamping myself in other things until I get so overwhelmed that anxiety-induced paralysis makes me throw everything away has happened many times over the years.
I’d normally be just doing something for a couple weeks, like writing a book and then my brain will go:
- What about your social media?
- What about getting more money?
- What about also finishing that project that has been on the shelf for three years now?
And… because I feel in control and comfortable on that “single project” moment I will go:
“YE, I CAN DO IT”
And six simultaneous projects later I go:
“NO, I CAN’T DO THIS”
And at this point, I have no one to blame for… I did this to myself.
Where I’m at right now
This year since I’ve moved out of my country, I’ve been riding on the enchantment of the waves of calmness produced by, for the first time in my adult life, living in a place where services like electricity, internet connection and water work normally and I don’t have to worry about getting murdered every time I leave my house.
Drunk on calmness, In this last five months I’ve started:
Not mentioning that before leaving my country I had already paused:
- 1 Webcomic.
- 1 Short comic.
- and several coloring books
All this while still managing up to 6 simultaneous freelance clients to:
- Pay all the rent and bills for two people.
- Buy furniture for a new apartment.
- Buy new equipment because mine is too slow for new kinds of work I’m getting.
- Keep a fun budget to go out on Sundays.
- and sending money back to my country so my family won’t starve to death.
From all these projects the only one that’s still properly being taken care of is the podcast with my friend, and that’s just because I respect him too much and recording is an excuse to hang out and get out of my house still feeling that I’m producing something.
So what’s Overreaching?
Overreaching is hurting myself by lacking the discipline to accept that there are only so many projects I can do at the same time and saying no to working on new ideas until I finish something.
And this time, I’m trying to change that for good.
I’ve given myself a specific amount of time during my regular day work hours to work on my personal projects and forbid myself from working on nothing more than illustrating one storybook until I finish it.
I want to balance working for money, and accomplishing personal projects until those two become the same thing. That… hasn’t happened yet.
Blogging and many other things will have to wait until that’s finished or will only get updates about the process of doing that book.
This post, for example, is just a rant to explain why I’ve been away and why my content will go in that direction. It is step -1 to finish this book.
Wish me luck
And hey, I would love to know if you overreach too. And if u do. How the hell do you finish your projects?
If you have any thoughts, opinions or will like to consult me at something you can DM on twitter at @manuelberbin or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, if you got here and want to know a little more about me:
My name is Manuel Berbin, you can call me Manbe for short. I specialize in 2d vector cartoon illustration and concept development. I’ve been drawing cartoons my whole life and illustrating professionally at digital media for over 9 years. I was born in Venezuela but I’m currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
If you want to see my 2D illustration work, you can check:
For quick recaps of this articles on presentation formats you can check my Instagram account: