I have lived with my boyfriend for almost three years now. One day, not long after we moved in together, we were about to start cooking dinner. But then I suddenly decided to vacuum. What can I say? It was dusty! Well, that was the first time he called me a "Stack".
While I am a Software Engineer, I'm also self-taught, so I had never heard that term before.
Me: What's a Stack?
Boyf: Well, you know what a Queue is - it's like a line: first in, first out. A Stack is similar, but different: last in, first out.
Me: Oh, so you're a Queue.
Me: Then what's Fry (my cat)?
Boyf: Hmm. ...a Universal Constant - he's always hungry!
And he's right! I am a Stack. It's how I function and how I've functioned for a long time. I fall for the shiny, new thing all the time. I bite off more than I can chew.
At one point in recent history, I was:
Helping kickstart a tech bootcamp for local, underprivileged women and non-binary adults.
Working with a local political group demanding government openness and transpency.
Volunteering for an advocacy group for those experiencing homelessness.
Updating the website of a nearby sign painting shop.
Going to DIY workshops, taking self defense classes, speaking at conferences, chilling with friends, hanging out with family, traveling, spending time with my boyfriend and cat, and on top of all that, trying to juggle general life responsibilities like cooking, paying the bills, and maintaining a full time job.
Anyway, you get the picture. I was busy. Really busy. A zillion things constantly swirled around in my head. And I quickly became burnt out by life. After months of innundation, I eventually decided it was time to learn to let go. Let go of overcommitting, overbooking, and overdoing it.
So, how did I do it?
To start, I stepped back from most of my volunteer commitments. I only meet with the local political group about once every two to three weeks. I keep tabs on the other groups, but I'm not actively involved.
I tackle only one side project at a time with at least two to four weeks of downtime in between. I give myself time to breath and reset before diving into the next client-based project.
I use my calendar religiously. This helps me ensure that my commitments are managable and I don't double or triple book my days. I can better assess if and when I should say no.
To alleviate brain overload, I use Evernote for work, side project, and creative idea notes. As soon as I conceive an idea, I "write it down" to shorten the time that I retain the thought. Instead of having a zillion things swirling in my head, it's closer to a million now.
To combat my Stack-like tendencies and help with priortization, I started a personal Trello board. This may be my favorite productivity fix. It's the most comprehensive, helping me:
Reduce mental overhead from my brain (get it?).
Priortize quickly, in a less Stack-like and more algorithmic behavior.
Get shit done.
Stop dwelling on things once they're complete.
For all those reasons, Trello has really helped me. I just have to remember to use it.
Also, I use Bill Pay for regular payments - even rent. I use Google Sheets to organize money related. I use email labels for quick filtering in everyday communication and records.
In other words, I deployed a few substantial changes for my larger issues and a lot of smaller changes for the everyday household stuff.
But most importantly, and last but not least,
I avoid guilt and FOMO.
That's the hardest change to implement, but I think it'll always be a work in progress and that's okay.
There's a right tool for everything, but everyone has a different right tool. I'm lucky to have found all the right tools for my current life organization, prioritization, and productivity. A change here and a program or app there.
As of this week, I'm still taking a DIY class, making a quilt, volunteering with that political group, speaking at conferences, seeing friends and family, and doing all my general life responsibilities. I also just finished wrapping up a friend's knitting website. But I have less stress and I feel more relaxed - life isn't as overwhelming. I'm definitely still a Stack when it comes to everyday tasks. But I'm on my way to becoming a coolheaded Universal Constant.