Eternally Burning Out

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A Note on Inspiration

The to-do list is never getting shorter.

Weekends are, with more stuff on the horizon: searching for a new car the newest among them.

Work has been an eternal emergency, or close to it. Everyone needs something today, they always do when you’re useful.

There are two ways to add more to the wick and wax so the candle doesn’t burn totally out: inspiration and organization.

Many things can be inspiring — my biggest inspiration is music, often without lyrics or any spoken word (or in a language I don’t speak, which makes Italian opera pretty good), but even some music with long instrumental sections works: classic rock often has a long stretch of solos or band-only parts. The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, et cetera, all tend to have songs with instrumental sections.

When you don’t want to listen to music, or you’re unable to actually get stuff done (commute, for example, or waiting somewhere without an outlet), then podcasts can be gold-mines of inspiration. There are several fiction podcasts I tune into on occasion, and several more like Joe Rogan that are just entertaining.

Another source of inspiration can be visual art, in one of many forms. Well-written movies and television that make one want to go out and conquer the world are good for this. Something that engages your brain a bit, or at least hits your personal inspiration sweet spot. I like movies about people doing something both heroic and outlandish: some super-hero stuff, but a lot of overcoming the odds type stories.

But something even simpler: make sure your interface is inspiring. Every so often I feel the need to tweak the set-up on my computer (or even phone) to give myself that boost. Changing/improving the font size, or the colors, are easy ways to boost yourself out of a slump. Sometimes a change from the norm is what you need.

Find something to give yourself a creative boost, a mood boost, any sort of mental kickstart. Sometimes the repetiveness of life slows us down.


I mentioned above that work feels like a constant emergency for a while now. Every day someone wants the impossible, or they want it yesterday, or some other garbage request. They frequently interrupt my work-flow and thought process with these (rather than send an e-mail), and that jolts me out of the zone and slows me down, too.

This is frustrating.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with a sort of kanboard. I’ve got three columns on the rarely-used dry-erase board in my office. There’s the backlog of stuff to get to, the currently active tasks, and the completed tasks. The backlog and completed have no limits, but I wrote “MAX: 3” in the active tasks column. I cannot switch between working on more than three things and maintain any sort of efficiency.

Each sticky-note on the board has several things written on it: the project it belongs to, who asked for it (it actually says “owner”), the realistic due date, and finally, what the task is. At a glance, I can see what is on the board, for who, which project is paying for it, and when I need to finish it.

Every single request turns into a sticky note (which reminds me, on Friday I have a few I need to write out and stick under “done”…). Every task that gets completed moves one more sticky to the massive tree of notes there already. When I first started, just so the completed corner wouldn’t be empty, I tossed up a few tasks I’d worked on in the recent weeks.

Seeing what I’ve done, even in such an abstract way, is inspiring.

By organizing this way, I’ve made myself more efficient and happier — and better able to deal with everyone else.

Soon I intend to start working on a pseudo-kanboard at home. I might even get crazy and use different color sticky notes. I’ve tried a few programs out, but there’s something about physically touching a task that gives me power over it, at least mentally.

So that’s how I’m trying to deal right now. Get inspired, get organized, and don’t get burned out.