Son Of Sun Tzu blog

Son Of Sun Tzu blog

They keep saying my audience will find me…

07 Aug 2022

feeling like I'm not doing enough


This question was asked in the Generalist World Slack a little while ago:

Quick Question - I often find myself feeling like I’m not doing enough. There are just SO many things I want to do that I feel like time is running out and I should get at it. I often end up in confusion, panic and anxiety. Does anyone else struggle with this? How do you calm yourself or redirect yourself to focus on ’top priorities'?

Generalist World is a community for self-defined generalists looking for support from each other, and ways to make use of their skills and experience when specialists tend to be favoured. So this isn’t an unsurprising question. I replied as follows, but I’ve tidied up the wording a little, and added links:

My reply

This is a relatively common problem, especially if you’re interested in many different fields, and so you’re exposed to many useful ideas and concepts.

I don’t want to downplay the effect this is having on you - but also I don’t want you to think that you’re alone in this, or somehow uniquely hampered by it. Do look up the “Planning Fallacy” and “Hofstadter's Law” to see that this is so common.

For me the methods I try to use are:

Ubiqutous capture: I make sure I write down all those ideas in some way. That helps remove them from my short term memory, and also means I can stop thinking about them - because if I have a new angle, or want to add something, I go to the place where I keep all these ideas. Then I can get on with something else.

Prioritisation: For some of us it’s easier said than done to have a “north star” or other unifying goal to determine what you should or shouldn’t do - but depending on your position, try to prioritise each idea and first work on those that are most promising. If you can’t figure that out because they’re all so diverse, or intriguing, literally pick one at random - use dice if you have to.

MVP: as in Minimum Viable Product - what’s the absolute least effort you can put into an idea to see if it will work or not? For me it’s easy to have big ideas, but also it’s easy to see how they won’t work by trying to start some small part of them. That helps me sift through them.

Reframing: again this is easier said than done, but to avoid the panic and anxiety try to be pleased at how many ideas you have. We might be similar in that for me to work on one thing I have to consciously choose to not work on nine others, and the possibilities in those nine ideas overshadow the possibilities of the one I’m looking at. Regard everything you do as an experiment, you’re not picking the one idea that must succeed, you’re running an experiment to see if it works or not - experiments never fail, you just learn if a hypothesis is right or wrong, then move on to the next experiment.

But bear in mind, especially when reading advice from others - there are a lot of different methods, that depend on many factors for their success or failure - do consider them, but there aren’t any universal solutions here. So if you try something and it doesn’t work, that’s to be expected, just make a note of what you tried and move on.Similarly, a lot of common personality tests are useful to think through what drives you, and so what you should prioritise - but they tend to take your opinion of yourself, remix it, and then feed it back to you - which is why they feel right. Do use them to help you think this through, but do be wary of having found THE ANSWER and an apparently simple explanation of your personality and how to change it, or what you should focus on. A quick read up on the “Barnum Effect” is useful here.

I put this on the blog in case it’s useful to someone else, and so I can review and update this in future.

Public discussions on the above are welcome.