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Problogger Epiphany – I’m Busy

Posted By Darren Rowse 14th of October 2005 ProBlogger Site News 0 Comments

A few weeks ago I was testing a mind mapping tool and thought it would be fun to map out my work life. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to lay it all out and see how many projects I was currently involved with.(not familiar with mind maps – check wikipedia’s page on them).

After about 15 minutes I had mapped it all out and was shocked to see just how many projects I’ve currently got ‘on the go’.

I stopped counting at about 40 projects (and have since remembered and started a couple more).

The 40 projects included 20 or so active blogs, six figure blogging, b5 media (which currently has a further 15 blogs – and some more coming soon – which I didn’t include in the total), a couple of ‘real life’ projects (did I ever mention that I lead a church in my spare time?) as well as a handful of blogging related other things that I’m working on but which I’m not yet able to talk publicly about.

As I stared at the mind map a couple of things struck me:

  1. It’s been a very big year – I’m sure if I did this same exercise at this point last year the number of projects would have been about a third (if that) of what they currently are. I’m amazed by the progress.
  2. The opportunities are amazing – It seems every day I open my inbox or turn on my IM and find someone presenting me with an opportunity with great potential. Sometimes I find myself giggling like a school kid at the idea that people would want to work with me – I really feel unworthy of so many of the approaches I get.
  3. I’m busy – As I constructed the mindmap I suddenly realized that I’m pretty busy. This might seem like a pretty obvious statement – but it is amazing how busyness can creep up on you. To be honest I’ve always considered myself as a bit of a lazy person so the conclusion that I’m busy and achieving so much with my time is something of an epiphany!
  4. No wonder I’m so tired – Again – a pretty obvious realization to come to – but something about the tangled web made me realize why I fall asleep while watching movies with friends, why I can’t seem to remember anything my wife tells me to do and why I always seem to be dreaming of my next holiday.
  5. Too many balls in the air – The conclusion I came to was that I currently have a few too many balls on the air to be doing all the juggling myself.

Since the night I did the mind map I’ve made a number of changes in my work life. I’ve finished up one offline project (I didn’t quit – I just completed it), I’ve added a new author to one of my blogs and I’ve started using the word ‘No’ a little more.

Some of you have experienced this already first hand when you’ve approached me to do some work for you. With the growth in traffic on this site I’ve had increasing numbers of people asking for advice (most of it free advice). While I’ve always tried to be generous with my time in this regard – the past month has been one where I’ve had up to 20 or 30 requests like this per day.

As a result I’ve removed the ‘Hire Me’ link from the menu at the top of this blog and have updated the page that it linked to (and my contact page) to advise that I won’t be taking on new consulting work (paid or otherwise) – at least in the short term. I’m working on some new ways to help people more individually – but don’t see this as happening in the short term.

I’ve also decided to shut off that part of my brain that comes up with ideas for a month or so. I know many of you are like me in this regard – you have so many ideas that you want to try – but sometimes the ideas get in the way of implementing the things you currently do.

I’ll continue to dream and explore ideas – but for at least the next couple of months I’m planning to concentrate on the projects at hand.

I’m really excited about the future, both here at as well as the many other things that occupy my mind – but I thought it might be useful to share some of my thought processes here – both as a bit of therapy for me – but also hopefully because I suspect they’ll connect with others on the same journey.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  • Chris
  • dude…slow down

  • I second the recommendation to get David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. It’s one of my all-time favorite productivity books. It has something of a cult-like following now, but the book isn’t cult-like at all. I learned GTD a few years ago and still use a variation of it today, although one with major modifications.

    Beyond GTD I eventually learned the importance of the word “no” as I too became busier and busier with my various projects related to my personal development business. You always have to say “no” to something so you can say “yes” to something else. I found it helpful to think of each “no” as a way of saying “yes” to something much more important. Here’s an article I wrote on this back in August:

    In order to pursue the best opportunities, I had to consciously make some tough choices about where to say “no.” For example, I recently disabled user comments on my blog as an experiment. People can still give me private feedback, but I found that this freed up lots of time for other things that were more important to me. I can always re-enable comments for specific posts when I truly desire feedback and discussion. Obviously there are serious benefits to having comments, but I think that I’ll keep them turned off, as the benefits don’t justify the burden for me. Turning off comments freed up some extra time and energy that I’ve been able to put to more effective use, both for my own benefit and that of my readers. For one, I’ve been able to do a lot more writing, and I think my writing has been more focused without so much feedback to deal with. I love feedback, but there are other things I love more.

    Something to consider….

  • Shut off the creative part of your brain for a few months?

    It’s never going to happen … not even for a few minutes :)

  • I know what you mean. I had been doing some blog freelancing for a while, and now I have been offered a full time job writing/podcasting on RSS mktg and related junk. While I am super excited to have gotten noticed (still on cloud nine LOL), I am crazy busy.

    Unfortunatly, this means my other blogs get neglected, and they were just starting to make some decent money, and they are so fun to write that I just wouldn’t want to write if I couldn’t write for them too. So, I’m burning the midnight oil trying to be superwoman right now. It’s 3:38am here in Roanoke, VA

    Had to share that I ‘feel your pain’ man.

  • “No” is an underused word amongst helpful people. It needs to be used more.

    I often try to take stock of what I’m doing and what should take prioirty. As I don’t (yet) blog full-time, I need to make sure that my blogging receives enough attention, but not so much trhat my paid work, my family, or my other commitments, suffer.

    It’s tough.

    I too get lots of ideas and think “Wouldn’t it be great if…” Trouble is, after the rush of implementing something, it has to be maintained. And there aren’t enough hours in the day.

    I need to build things up more slowly, nurturing what I already have. I might try the mind map exercise on my life as a whole, as there are a lot of things going on (I’ve just taken on a year’s mentoring role (not blog related) which is a new one for me, and I need and want to invest proper time into this guy’s development).

    Sleep’s good too :)

    I still think I could improve the efficiency of some of my blogging pracitices, but it’s not always easy to see how when you’re actually doing it daily. Maybe I need to take a weekend out to analyse how I blog and how to improve it.

  • There comes a point when some things have to give, not only for your mental state of mind but also your physical well being.

    It makes sense to stop taking new work on, try and get current projects smoothed out, and then when things are settled, continue to expand.

    Burning the midnight oil can be very productive – the early days just after my son was born proved quite productive for me – it meant being up anyway, and with no other disturbances other than a feeding babym or a baby needing rocking to sleep, meant I got a lot of web work done. Now though, sleep is precious, so midnight oil is no longer burnt. Although this helps physically (less tired), mentally its a strain because all the things you want to get done just doesn’t get the time dedicated to it that it needs to.

  • Dave, just had a baby maybe that explains my night time work…

    Andy, I think you are right about the stepping back and analyzing your blog habits… I need to do this too.

  • Great post as always. Mind Maps are an incredible tool. I use them for my project planning all the time. In fact, I teach them in all my seminars whether I’m teaching a course Relationship Planning for Successful Singles, or in my business courses like Writing a Marketing Plan that works. I buy large easel paper (just like the kids use). I also have a collection of thick colored markers. Then I sit down and create a Mind Map of whatever the issue is. (I read in a book once, that if you turn the paper horizontally when you write on it that it evokes more creativity in oneself) I love these “designs” because I can hang them up on the wall and refer back to them as needed. Of course since I’ve taken on way too many projects, they often sit there for a while – but they’re quite nice to look at — plus I can really get into a project much easier from a visual standpoint vs having written it out in a more serial, linear fashion.. I understand the being busy thing and appreciate learning how to say “no”. As I teach in one course — “You need to say ‘no’ to what you don’t want in life, so you can say ‘yes’ to what you do want.” It’s easy to get so busy but it’s because we love what we do. Seems I’ve been having a lot of those types of days lately — from 5 a.m to 11 p.m. You’ve inspired me to step away from the computer – so to speak – for at least one day this week. Thanks for reminding me!

  • Don’t forget to have fun Darren, otherwise all the work is of no use!

  • If you chase too many rabbits at once, they all end up escaping…unless, of course, you delegate:-)

  • Darren — Coincidently, I just started using mind maps myself about 2 weeks ago. I really think using mind maps has helped clarify my thinking and plan out how to execute on ideas. Visual thinkers will especially like the fact that mind maps helps them “visualize” their ideas. I think it’s a lot better than using lists and outlines (or Powerpoint). If you want to try using mind maps, I’ve been using Mind Manager as a trial version from I don’t think I can ever go back.

  • Darren – I’ll concur with many of the comments here, especially as they relate to three things:

    1. Getting Things Done is a great method of putting everything you’ve committed to in context so you can make better Yes/No decisions and make sure your day-to-day decisions are well-aligned with your longer-term objectives and dreams.

    2. Mind mapping is a tremendously easy, yet powerful visualization technique and allows you to interact with your commitments in a way a more “2-D” approach like lists or outlines simply can’t.

    3. Saying “no” for the right reasons is a critical skill to master. At my company, we have a very visible sensibility that coming up with good ideas isn’t terribly hard when you have a thoughtful, creative team to work with. Deciding which are the best ideas is the tricky part. You also have to develop the skill of applying this sensibility to new opportunity. When there’s something “too good to pass up” in the offing, I always make one of my first questions “What thing am I doing now that I can/must stop doing (temporarily or permanently) to make room for this new thing?”

  • I have to agree with you Darren, I am not sure how you say no but it is a really good thing. I knew I had a few things going but when I looked at the sites I was tracking Adsense on I realized I was up to 22 sites and realized I had better make the most of each of these instead of trying to launch the next “Most Important Thing”.

    I am sure after a month or so you will be able to get things back in shape and start more new projects again. After seeing you daily schedule in a post last week I realized that you do seem to have a great schedule to manage your time much better than most of the rest of us mere mortals.

  • Saying “no” is a very valuable lesson I’ve learned in one of my hobbies – genealogy. That’s a hobby that can pull you in so many directions and it consumes so much time, that you’ll frequently find yourself in information overload.

    You reach a point where you have to back off and commit yourself to certain things, and be willing to set aside something and come back to it later.

    Just like blogging.

    Something just as important – you have to not only be able to say “no”, but say it and then not dwell on it.

    Dwelling on a “no” decision is just as bad as saying “yes”.

    One tip that some genealogists use to avoid burnout, and that applies to blogging, is to back off current projects, to say “no” so to speak, and go back through older research (or blog posts).

    Frequently, you’ll find something you’ve overlooked, or will come up with new ideas. This will help to strengthen the foundations of your research, or blog as it were, and it actually does help relieve some of the pressure.

  • BJ

    Well, all I want to say is, if you’re lazy, Darren, there’s no hope for the rest of us. ;)

    Seriously, though, I was on the Getting Things Done track for a while, until I got sidetracked by life. So this was a good reminder that I need to get out my GTD flowchart and get back on track again.

  • Vix

    40 projects! And I thought I was busy!

    I agree with you sometimes you have so many ideas you just want to get it out there but keeping up with those ideas involve more investment (time, money, energy) and if you’re running low pretty soon other projects will suffer.

  • There’s another approach too Darren, one I’m exploring at the moment: build a team around you.

    As individuals we can only do so much before we reach our physical limits. By specializing though, we can maximize those things we’re best at (and we enjoy most).

    It’s a scary thing to do, hiring people. Writing those cheques every month, whether the work is there or not is not to be trifled with. Still…