Two weeks ago, on late Friday evening, I was writing this newsletter but then decided to postpone it and skip another week. OK, another two weeks. Why?
I was pushing myself every week to write the newsletters, and it was time to think and regroup where to go next. I went back to the drawing board.
Sitting down every Monday and trying to write an innovative newsletter of 500 - 1000 words isn’t walk in the park. When I started, motivation was high, so I forced myself through the resistance of postponing and wrote the newsletter. Week by week.
But in the past few weeks, I started putting the writing of the newsletter off. Day after day. Wasn’t the newsletter supposed to be something I enjoy? Not a chore? Yet I felt like I failed because I didn’t deliver to your inboxes what I promised.
I failed again? No, I needed a break and regroup. In the past, I would have forged on, but these days I often say:
You know what it can wait.
It doesn’t mean I don’t care about projects and doing things in the time frame I promise. I do. But if something needs a day, week or a month instead of one hour I planned. So be it.
Instead, then stress my self out. I should enjoy the view:
and be creative. So I finally decided to take into consideration the advice of the people who’ve been writing newsletters for years. I took two weeks off and created a backlog.
Below is the first outcome.
In the last three years, I failed so many times that I can’t count all occasions anymore. It wasn’t the fact that I failed that disappointed me, it was more the how. By promising things, I couldn’t deliver on. One after another. Year after year.
I always tolerated failure, in fact, I embraced it and still do. But I never tolerated that someone promised something & then didn’t deliver on it in time. After all, if you’re in charge of a team and a link fails because they didn’t ask for help in time the whole team suffers.
As ironic as this is, I went down the deadline rabbit hole numerous times. But it wasn’t just deadlines; it was also failed exams, too many projects, …
In 2016 I started my masters with the idea that I could finish it in 1 year. Instead of required two. In the end, it took me three years and a half. I guess I was leaving in a reality distortion field. Though if I look at my first semester, I did actually finish 1/2 of my studies. Then in February 2017, I went for a semester abroad, and I experienced a sensory overload.
Contrary to my home physics university in Ljubljana, ETH in Zurich is a highly social place. At home in Slovenia, each department has its own campus, and they are scattered all over town. There’s no main building/campus. Most students live at home or share an apartment with few people.
In Zurich, however, your life evolves out around the university. It’s a bubble. And that’s really nice because it creates a community, environment in which you socialise, study, do hobbies, …
But as a result, there are 1000-s of activities you can try besides your studies at uni. Not to mention the rich curriculum that’s offered. I guess you can already see how things ended for me.
I signed up for too many courses, for an extra entrepreneurship course, consulting club, worked at a lab, did sports, tried to socialise, watched movies, slept, …
As a result, nothing got done. In my second semester at ETH, I killed everything and decided to take just two massive courses. But then I had to sign up for weekly coding meetups, join a rocket project as a member of two teams, help in the university makerspace, build my own website and tried to lunch a startup. I barely finished one course and delivered only half of what I promised in the rocket project. Yeah not cool.
But the best part is about to come. At the beginning of July 2018, I started my three-month internship at CERN and found a PhD position in Germany that I was supposed to begin in November.
I still thought that I could finish my masters till November 2018 even though I was missing one half of the credits and a thesis. I was still head of a simulations sub-team for the rocket project and worked on the startup.
My thesis work was going nowhere. Now that I look back, I realize that those goals were insane. Well no just plain idiotic. But I forged on.
Until October, I finished my CERN internship and wrapped up the rocket project. In February 2019, I still had to finish half of my courses for the masters and the thesis. How? Well, I was working on 50 things at once. In March, I finally had to turn the German PhD position down. I mislead the research group in Germany.
I promised that I could finish my studies on time. Where deep down I knew I wasn’t going to make it. Did I lay? No, I actually believed that I could make it. Even though my gut was telling me that I won’t.
At that point, I realised that since January 2018, I haven’t finished a single course. Everything I did was up to 80%. As a result, I felt pretty anxious. At some point, I realised that the only way out was to kill all of the side projects and focus solely on the thesis. It was hard, but I had to let go of the startup team and all other pet projects.
I underestimated workload for some of the courses considerably. I turned out I needed 4 months of 50h work weeks to finish two courses and the whole of September to finish the rest.
Fast forward, 2020 started, and I defended my thesis. Yes, more then one year and a half later then I planned and two years and a half later as I expected initially.
Maybe you’re thinking, but you did all those beautiful things in those three years. I’m proud of all of my accomplishments and the things I tried. But I’m ashamed of how much promises I broke along the way. One after another. Oh, and people were telling me to slow down. Did I listen? Nope.
My behaviour in the past three years wasn’t rational. It was opportunistic. From one opportunity to another. But I had to go through that to learn where my limitations lie. I indeed did found the limitations. Not all but some.
These days I have to hold my self back every day, so I don’t open up a new project. The reality is this. If you want to get something done you’re gonna have to be brutal on what makes it into your schedule. Everyone wants your attention: friends, family, companies, your body. It’s up to you to decide who gets it.
One of the hard realisations for me was that there’s only one way forward. Single-tasking. Because in the long run, any productivity system will drain you. You’ll lose energy when switching tasks. Sure, to some extent, you can’t avoid multitasking. But you can try to single-task the other 99% of the time.
We’ll see how it goes in the future. I’m still taking on new projects, but I’m also cutting back on some of those commitments.
If you’re going down the same road as I did. Think again. At the end of that road, there’s only disappointment and burnout waiting for you.
So a lot happened in the past two weeks, the personal page was redesigned. It looks slightly better, but few more fixes are definitely needed.
Oh and now that I’m finally home I’m Playing furniture Tetris. Completely rearranged my apartment.
In the upcoming week, I’m taking experimentation up a notch. More on why in the forthcoming weeks.
Right now, I’m experimenting with my morning routine. I move my ass immediately after I wake up to my reading chair and try to read for the first hour. We’ll see how it goes.
You know the drill. Let me know what you’ll experiment within the upcoming week.
Till the next weekly experiment.
P.s. If you like the newsletter, share it. 😉