How to do all of the things, all of the time

I’ve decided to take a different approach to my career and the rest of my life this year. If you’ve been following my Twitter account, you might have noticed some of the various projects I’m juggling at the moment. I’m working on about ten different things at any given time and I’ve never been happier.

Here are my current projects, in order of priority:

  1. My health. This is something I made a lower priority for far too long, and I ended up paying a big price for it. Since reaching my 30’s, I’ve realised that my human body is much more high maintenance than I would prefer it to be. But without good physical and mental health, I cannot accomplish all of the things that I want in life. So to this end, I am making my overall health my absolute top priority.
  2. Consulting. This just makes so much sense for me. I love meeting new people, I’ve spent most of my career jumping into new situation and improving it anyway, and this allows me to be flexible with my work schedule so that I have room in my life for other projects.
  3. Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve always wanted to try tabletop roleplaying games and this year I finally got into it and jumped straight into being a Dungeon Master. It’s been a very interesting learning experience and I’ve been surprised to find that it’s strengthened a few of my other projects.
  4. Weight lifting. This is kind of related to the health stuff, but I also just wanted to know what it’s like to be really, really strong. I’ve always thought I was a physically weak person, so I’d like to see what it’s like to be the opposite of that. Unfortunately, so far this year I’ve caught every cold and flu going around, so it’s coming along very slowly. But it’ll get there.
  5. Hogfish Labs. This is a collaboration between a long-time friend of mine and I, and we’re inching ever closer to launch of our first product – Fish2Duck. We are changing the world, one fish at a time.
  6. Hogfish Designs. I’ve drawn pictures for as long as I could put a mark on a page. Lately I’ve grown brave enough to share my work professionally. I’m finding that this courage has blossomed with the realisation that I don’t actually care what anyone thinks of my work – I just find so much joy in creating it and it’s a bonus if other people enjoy it too.
  7. My novel. I woke up one morning with an idea for a fictional fantasy-setting story and spent the next four hours writing the whole thing out in brief. Then I got hungry and had to take a break. Writing, like drawing, creates a state of flow for me so I’m giving myself space to enjoy that too. Maybe someone will buy the story someday, it doesn’t matter – the story is the story and the story needs to be told.
  8. An adventure game. Recently a friend of mine who runs a game development studio invited me to collaborate on a game with her. I love the concept and I’ve always wanted to make a game, so this is exciting. With two creative ex-Google engineers working together, you know this is going to be good!
  9. A mentorship platform. A friend of mine and I have had this idea kicking around for a while now. It’s still a seedling that’s not getting much sunlight, but the flower could be wonderful.
  10. Wow, I really thought I had ten but I guess I don’t. I’m kind of relieved! I could put singing here, but that’s not so much a project as just something I do as much as I can because it makes me happy. I don’t really have a goal for it right now.

The interesting thing about these projects is that they tend to interrelate. The consulting gives me ideas for the mentorship platform, the D&D inspires my writing and the adventure game and got me in touch with people who like my artwork. Working on Fish2Duck built my experience with vector graphics, and I’ll probably end up using the same app I use for most of my latest artwork to make t-shirts for the Fish2Duck launch. Even the research I did into psychology and wellbeing has helped me greatly in both consulting and the mentorship platform design, as well as considering my characters’ personalities in D&D and my novel. And finally, giving myself space for joyous activities like artwork, writing and singing improves my overall health.

Because these all interrelate, this allows me to be far more productive than I would ever have expected while working on so many things at once. If my health falters, I take the time I need to work on it. When I’m back to full health, the boost to my productivity more than makes up for the time lost.

Although I opened myself up to many opportunities, I quite carefully chose each of these projects based on the way that they ultimately contribute to my overall wellbeing.

Last year I read a hefty textbook about the universal character traits that motivate people which forms the basis of the positive psychology movement. A group of psychology researchers sought to create something of an anti-DSM – a way to classify human behaviors that resulted in benefits in psychological wellbeing both for the instigator and those around them. The result was a classification of character traits and virtues found to be universal across cultures throughout history.

According to the VIA survey, my strongest five traits are creativity, humour, perspective, love of learning and honesty. This represents the traits that come most easily to me, and I agree with the result. So I decided I’ll invest in these traits to see what happens.

As my primary defining trait is most definitely creativity, I’ve started investing more in creative activities and I am seeing significant benefits. I spend more time in a “flow state”, which is where I am at my most productive. The book Wired to Create describes creative people as having “messy minds”. The novelty-seeking behavior of creatives allows us to make new connections between seemingly unrelated things.

Another point the authors made was that “the creative person is constantly seeking to discover himself, to remodel his own identity, and to find meaning in the universe through what he creates.” This approach of constant reinvention feeds well into the character trait of perspective, which allows us to adjust our mental model of the world around us as we take in new information and different points of view.

Updating this mental model of the world is an effective way to work through trauma and build resilience, which is very important for mental health. So I haven’t found it at all surprising that many of the most successful women I know have had to deal with significant trauma in their lives. A traumatic event forces perspective to change and has even been correlated with a boost to creativity. It’s certainly not something anyone would recommend as a means to an end, but at least it is a decent silver lining.

My next trait to research will probably be honesty. I was intrigued by the classification of humour as a transcendence trait. Transcendence has foundations in spirituality and our ability to find meaning in the world. I’m very interested to learn more about this, so look forward to more funny stuff.

And finally, I find that writing is an excellent outlet for authenticity which is of course part of honesty. So expect more blogging.

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