07.24.13

Give Yourself A Fucking Break

Life feels overwhelming sometimes, doesn’t it?

It’s as if everywhere you turn there’s something to do, someone to respond to, something to read/buy/clean/tweet/watch/learn/create/deal with, and your to-do list keeps getting longer and longer and your inbox keeps getting more and more crowded and every hour of your day is over-scheduled until all of the sudden you find yourself face-down in the middle of the kitchen floor, wailing about the fact that you’re out of bananas because you haven’t had time to go to the grocery store in like two weeks because oh my god you’re too busy for the grocery store and how is it possible that everyone else in the world manages to buy bananas in a timely manner and WHY IS LIFE JUST SO HARD AND UNFAIR FOREVER?

Yeahhh.

In other words? You’re burned out.

You know how it goes – you’re chugging along just fine, happily adding one little thing at a time into your life, but all too quickly those little things cling together to become big things and it’s almost like you wake up one day and realize you’re no longer sitting in the driver’s seat of your own life. Instead, you’re hanging onto the rear bumper by your fingertips, getting dragged down the street by some asshole with road rage, a lead foot, and a very poor sense of direction.

And the craziest part of being overwhelmed and burned out is that it’s not like anyone wants to feel that way, you know? It’s not like you’re looking up at the clock and thinking, “Hmm, 11am on a Wednesday? This seems like a marvelous time to over-commit myself to a bunch of shit I’m going to quickly wind up resenting. Yes! Let’s do that!”

That’s not how it happens. It happens slowly, one too many “yes” answers at a time, and it happens as a result of the fact that you keep doing things a certain way for the sole reason that that’s how you’ve been doing them – regardless of whether or not that way of doing things really works for you. You keep saying “yes” because don’t people like when you say yes? You want to be invincible, reliable, and effortlessly comfortable with high-level multi-tasking. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

So, listen, this is my first day back to normal life after taking four weeks off. Well, not totally off, but off enough. Because five weeks ago? Five weeks ago I found myself in face-down-banana-induced-hysterics, which is how you know it’s time to take a fucking break. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve been functioning at an extremely unsustainable level for months now, juggling too many projects, jobs, trips, races, emotionally draining life changes, time-sucking commitments, tough family things – you name it, I’ve been doing it this year.

And, in the midst of all of it, I turned my entire life upside down by splitting up with my boyfriend and deciding to go all-in with Life Less Bullshit as my full-time business – two decisions I feel incredibly good about, but huge decisions nonetheless.

Which brings us back to the banana incident.

After I got up from the floor, I realized that a life in which I can’t find time to go to the fucking grocery store isn’t the life I want. And I mean, if I’m not actively doing my best to live the life I want to live and being true to the things that are important to me, how can I expect to show up for my clients and all of the brave, fantastic people in my programs and help them do the same in their lives?

Which is how I decided to take four weeks off. Well, “off” in the sense that I haven’t been creating new products, programs, or resources. “Off” in the sense that I put all of my energy toward wrapping up existing commitments for a full week and a half, and since then I’ve been following a temporary “no new things” policy in an effort to clear absolutely everything off my long-standing to-do lists before moving on in this new direction.

Because you can’t go directly from one really intense thing to a new really intense thing without giving yourself time to transition. We like to think we can do that – that we can fly from one thing to another thing at warp speed all the time – but we can’t. We need transition time, buffer time, time to come down off one thing and rest a little before digging into whatever’s next.

It’s like with running – you can’t just add more miles and more miles every day, day after day, week after week, month after month. If you do, you’ll get injured. Instead, you build slowly, rest regularly as part of the training itself, and you work toward a peak performance at your goal race. And after that goal race? You rest again, you recharge, and you take the time to figure out what you want to do next.

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the past four weeks.

At the heart of it, I’ve been working to create space in my life – physical space now that I’ve had the apartment to myself for two months, emotional space now that I’m spending so much more time alone, scheduling-related space now that I’m blocking out big chunks of time in my planner to go to the beach, read magazines, and playfully brainstorm the future of my business and my life.

And, surprise surprise, creating space fucking works. Because, you guys? I’m finally well-rested and not-crazy. I asked myself a lot of questions in the past few weeks – things like, “How can I help people?” and “What do I feel like I absolutely must create?

(Sidebar: Have you asked yourself those questions lately? Because, do it.)

So, now, with those questions asked and answered, I’m back in creation mode, and I wanted to let you know what I’m working on. First, I’ll be going through the (insanely awesome) feedback from the 155 graduates of the 30-Day Sugar Detox program and adding all of the bonus content they requested to the course materials. I can’t wait to share their testimonials with you soon, and then on October 1 I’m going to be running the program again, complete with a shit-ton of new content and a special Healthy Holiday Survival Guide component to help you enjoy the hell out of the holiday season without making yourself sick on sugar. [Interested? Click here and I'll send you everything you need to know before registration opens in September.]

Next up, I’m taking my Change Your Story project offline with in-person workshops to help you identify your specific self-limiting beliefs, re-write your story, and create a plan to change your habits and your life. I’m currently deciding which cities to hit with the first round of workshops, so if you’re interested in getting together in a small-group setting in your hometown, click here and tell me who you are and where you live.

Lastly, I’ve begun work on The Obsession Lab, a one-of-a-kind, month-long, 12-person mastermind group for taking that thing you’re obsessed with and fucking making it happen. I’m more excited about this than I can ever remember being about anything else (and, uh, that’s saying a lot), because I’ve seen first hand – both with myself and my clients – what can happen when you harness the power of obsession, get laser-focused on one goal, break through every barrier that’s holding you back, and go all-in.

[Warning: This group isn’t for people who just want to hem and haw about their dream life. It’s for people who know that nothing changes if nothing changes, and who are ready to do some damn work to make shit happen. So, if that sounds like you, and if you’re interested in learning more about the 12 spots as soon as they’re available, click here, drop your email in the box, and we’ll talk.]

And in the meantime? If you’re feeling overwhelmed like I was five weeks ago, this is me giving you permission – no, giving you an order – to take a fucking break. Not necessarily a “run away to the mountains” break (although that sounds lovely), but a micro-break. An afternoon off. A full week without non-essential plans. An evening to purge your closet and create space. A half hour in the morning to look through your to-do list and just decide not to do most of those things.

Or, at the very least, five glorious minutes in the middle of the day to just give zero fucks about anything and everything.

(Believe me, it’s worth it.)

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy July 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Really needed to read this today.

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Jennifer July 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Yesssss!! I go down the Banana Freakout Lane often. I’ve done a better job recently of decluttering (my word of the year) my life/schedule/belongings/emotions/etc. I found it glorious after returning from vacation to find that I had all this free time after work where before it was jammed with a couple page long to-do list. I had time to read! A lot! I’m actually about to finish a book!!

Just this past week I’ve built up that schedule/to-do list again and I foresee the dead end of my BFL coming soon. Thanks for the reminder that my burn outs are not fun and usually set me back a couple months. I need to chill the fuck out, declutter my schedule again, and figure out what’s sustainable and ENJOYABLE for what I want my life to be like.

Also, super excited to hear about your Obsession Lab! I totally signed up, yo. I need to become obsessed with my writing, ’cause I’m being lame.

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Kelly L July 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I think “Banana Freakout Lane” should just be, like, a thing. A thing that everyone can reference and everyone will know what it means.

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Big L July 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I second that recommendation!

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Sarah J. Sequins July 25, 2013 at 1:44 am

I think it would make an awesome band name, too.

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Ivy July 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm

BRO.
I literally decided just today to take a mini-sabbatical to focus on learning, playing, and finding inspiration, because I’ve done the If I Don’t Do This Ten Minutes Ago The Universe Is Going To Explode forever for way too long, and while money comes and goes, health not so much.
And now I’m seeing sabbaticals being taken all over the internet and serendipity is totally a real thing.

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Jena July 24, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I really needed to hear this today. I have been running on empty for quite a while now. Between working full time, my health taking a turn for the worse, and ultimately trying to decide what I want to do with my life – and getting down and dirty to actually do it. I am really trying to relax and calm down enough where I actually can make valid decisions based on something I want to do, but it’s not solid yet. I am honestly not sure even now what to do. I’m overwhelmed but at the same time I’m also avoiding it all completely…

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Kelly L July 24, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Oh lord, I am so there. Except I finally bought bananas on Sunday (and they’re already turning brown and mushy, HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN) and I am trying to figure out what the hell to do next because I don’t even know where to turn because every direction is SOMETHING ELSE that needs done. Honestly, I should just take some days off and veg out at my apartment, hopefully clean the damn thing, and just… be.

Also, suggestion? You should sell a mini e-cookbook of all the sugar detox recipes because I saw people posting about their food and I’m all I WANT THAT IN MY FACE but I don’t know if a sugar detox is really the right thing for me, but some of those recipes sounded amaaaazing and I would love to get, like, just those. Maybe? *puppy eyes*

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Big L July 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

OK, so somehow I missed the Shatterbox/side-hustle/big life-changing decision post. GEEEEZ. What a big friggin deal that is! Not that I’m surprised…you’re clearly obsessed every inch of LLB, in a really admirable way, so it totally makes sense. I can’t wait to watch things explode (again, in a good way), because they’re gonna!

Also: I’m a delinquent student and didn’t submit Detox feedback – this was totally by accident! If it’s not too late, let me know.

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Debbie July 24, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I just found your blog while looking for green smoothie recipes without 6 pieces of fruit in them. You’ve already changed my life with your blog about time management hacks. Thank you!!
I hit the “banana skids” myself a few months ago. Good for you! In my experience it’s take the time off or the time you’re spending on all those things will take you off—the rails. It’s always harder to come back from burn out or worse than it is to stop in the middle and re-organize.
Bless you for blogging!

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Life Leaps July 24, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Great blog! Thank you! I find that when I’m short on victories, I go all out to 1) increase my chances of finally scoring a victory and 2) making myself feel busy to distract myself from the situation. Then I get into overwork and don’t work smartly. That is a downward spiral. Just wanted to throw that out there if anyone is experiencing the same.

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Maritere July 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Nicole!! Just in time. I’ve been handling so much stress lately and I know it is time to take a break when I (1) keep postponing things I like and (2) keep browsing social media compulsively (until I get depressed of comparing myself to others). Yesterday was horrible for me and today I decided that I will live the life I deserve and by that I mean to look within instead of outside, and to look for what feels good for me (spiritually and physically). Thank you so much and I wish you the best on all of your projects (someday I’ll be part of the Obsession Lab). You have inspired me so much. I love you! -Maritere

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Heather July 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

What a great reminder.. I did something similar recently when I was having a total face-down on the floor can’t even find time to make breakfast moment.. (allergic to bananas ;) )

I called up a bunch of people and said “no”… I asked for HELP on projects I needed help with.. and I have had many evenings and days of just having FUN and relaxation with me and me alone.. it’s been fucking awesome. :)

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Amber July 24, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Because GIVE YOURSELF A FUCKING BREAK. Yes. Bravo.

I love both your new ideas, by the way. Stories need to be changed and obsessions need to be cultivated. And you are magnificent at both.

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Mary July 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Hi Nicole, I was so pleased to see your blog today. I often feel guilty when I totally can’t relate to being overbooked. I used to be busier but with health issues, friends moving, membership to art gallery expiring etc., I have become lonely and bored. My health is better but still needs some work but I have started doing more things. I went to Heart concert last night. I started crying when they did a song about being alone. I realized it’s really time to reach out, spend time with people, and maybe even get a little overextended for a change. Keep your wonderful, wise insights coming. They give me hope. xo Mary

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Amanda July 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Thank you Nicole – here in Wellington, New Zealand, we have just suffered from a major Earthquake. On top of all my things I have said “yes” to, I now have to deal with the stress of an apartment that’s no longer structurally sound, a landlord who doesn’t give a f*ck, and aftershocks every hour. Just like money, it is important to keep a “savings account” of spare time in case of an emergency… I wish that this week I could get a CREDIT CARD of TIME!! But it will pass, and I look forward to a small vacation once I’m over this hump. You are an inspiration Nicole, even to us small folk on the other side of the planet, xx.

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Lindsay July 25, 2013 at 6:10 am

Girl, I am convinced you are living inside my brain and know exactly what you need to post and when to keep me from going off the deep end. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so open and honest and helpful. I am definitely in need of space and a break and it’s kind of the perfect time for it.

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Rose July 25, 2013 at 6:17 am

Man. I feel this. I had to borrow a banana from my neighbor once because I couldn’t get to the store. I knew it was bad then. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to say “no” and focus on the things that bring me joy… without getting totally overwhelmed. xoxo

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Jaclyn Desforges July 25, 2013 at 9:53 am

This is exactly what I needed today. What I hate about my own Banana Freakouts is that often they come about because of my long list of things I actually WANT to do… Like cook all my meals and go to yoga seven days a week and launch my own business while simultaneously doing awesome at my full-time job.

…Now that I’ve written all that out, it sounds pretty stupid. Thanks for the perspective!

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Valorie July 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I went down Banana Freakout Lane just last week. It was a long drive, I was tired and hungry and on my 9th hour of an 11 hour work day and I finally just pulled the car over and told my boss that no, no I couldn’t taste this coffee for the umpteenth time because if I didn’t go to yoga or get some sleep rightthatsecond I might actually die. And then I cried. And then my boss was like, “WTF, go home? It’s just coffee.”

Because yeah, it’s “just” coffee or “just” bananas until it’s not. And then it’s your sanity and emotional wellbeing. So I stopped answering the phone for a day and worked on non-work-things and now I’m less stabby. Give yourself a fucking break, indeed.

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Mikael July 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

“You know how it goes – you’re chugging along just fine, happily adding one little thing at a time into your life, but all too quickly those little things cling together to become big things and it’s almost like you wake up one day and realize you’re no longer sitting in the driver’s seat of your own life. Instead, you’re hanging onto the rear bumper by your fingertips, getting dragged down the street by some asshole with road rage, a lead foot, and a very poor sense of direction.” — BEST EFFING METAPHOR EVER.

I ran into that “have no time to even shop” within the last couple of weeks and it’s so brutal. Thanks for the reminder that we need to be kind to ourselves and not overload what we are doing. I have a problem with the “yes” syndrome, and want to do all the things, to the point where if I actually have free time, I choose to do absolutely nothing, which I think is counterproductive.

And have I said you run one of my favorite blogs EVER?

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Kristina July 27, 2013 at 1:34 am

I just wanted to thank you so much for your words and your blog!
It helped me quite a big deal.
I’m in the middle of buffer-time: Writing a bachelor-thesis and having an internship I don’t really learn anything or even like. It’s a time I can’t move on to the next step of my life, which I’m really eager to! That’s what I refer to as buffer-time until the next big step of moving out and getting a real job comes.
I’m a silent reader for a while now and read every of your entries with joy! I just wanted to say thank you! You are truly inspiring to me! You are an idol to me, because you managed to do what you really WANT to do. Chasing your dreams and make a business out of it. That’s exactly what I want to do!

I had one of those breakdowns a while ago and worked up another schedule. Working full time 40h-a-week and writing a bachelor thesis on the weekend 16 h doesn’t allow a lot of spare time. The days pass by far to fast and there is not enough time for all the things I want to do, but I managed to stick to not doing anything when I leave work. The evenings under the week are free to be filled with whatever joy I have, like painting or just playing a videogame without regret or meet friends.
Works good for me so far. I feel less burned out! And even at work I allow myself a little break once in a while. (5 minutes of browsing the internet without guilt and take the breaks we have to take serious)

Thank you so much for your inspiration and dedication to teach others!

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Rob F July 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Ohh, that sounds great. The last couple of weeks I had off of my full time job were to help my wife recover from some eye surgery, and they wound up pretty busy as a result. The last couple of weekends have also been full of a reonvation project, and I am so looking forward to a “bugger all this for a game of soldiers” weekend.

And week.

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cantaloupe August 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

I think the bit about doing things just because that’s how you do things is particularly true for many people. Like, why were those bananas so important? I find that sometimes I just need to take my to-do list and cross off about half of the things because I don’t really need to do them and they’re just there because it could be a good idea, but it’ not necessary. Or I make a new to-do list of only five things. Anything to make less pressure.

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jon August 11, 2013 at 9:12 pm

I’m just a blog reader, but I checked out your products, workshops, and coaching. Slick! The buttons make you want to click on the buttons. I clicked on the buttons.

The Borrow My Brain thing is genius, but it causes me to wonder how many people you get who just want to talk to someone for an hour, anyone really (full disclosure: sometimes I would like that). But how do you prevent it from being like a confessional (e.g. my goal is to stop stabbing strangers on public transportation because I feel really bad afterwards and how many Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s should I say?) Or do you encourage that (the confession, not the stabbing)?

I’m not asking this question to advance my own interest (business has always seemed strange), and I’m sure you have trade secrets and the like. I’m just asking because it’s interesting to me.

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nicole antoinette August 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm

You know, I’ve never even thought about that, because all the sessions I’ve done have been great. There’s a pre process in which the client shares what they want to get out of the call, and if it didn’t seem like a good fit based on that, I wouldn’t do it, you know? But, man, you’ve definitely given me something to think about…

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