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How I’m Letting Go And Being Better For It

I’m obsessive. There, I said it, although its not a secret to anyone who knows me. Not I-can’t-get this-[person, place or thing]-out-of-my-head obsessive. More like I-must-read-every-physics-book-in-my-college-library obsessive. It’s served me well, too, in my professional and my personal life.

If I decide to learn something, my brain won’t allow me to stop until I’ve spent hours tracking down the experts on the topic, then commit weeks, months (even years) to learning everything I can on the subject. My obsession with strength training and nutrition began in 2008. It’s still going strong. Same for content strategy (circa 2013), business strategy (2003) and disruptive innovation (circa 2000).

I joke with friends that there’s no better solution to quickly flattening a learning curve than having the obsession engine kick in.

But...

It’s keeping me from being as effective as I might be, in large part because, well, I’m over-thinking every damn thing instead of simply diving in and getting things done.

I’m finally ready to admit that, while obsessiveness has been and continues to be an uncontrollable asset, the level of analysis paralysis it invites is downright absurd. I’ve seen this train barrelling down the tracks in my direction for a while now, but only recently did I decide the danger was real and severe.

No more.

After a long talk with myself about the need to get out my own way, I’m slowly starving the obsession engine of fuel, which means I’m making more time to do the things I love and thinking less about what I can’t and/or won’t get done.

The catharsis is less than a week old, but the changes are real and substantial.

My mornings now start with reading. Kate Kiefer Lee’s piece spoke to me in a visceral way, in large part because reading has always been the best start to my morning. Instead of waking up at 3 am and immediately starting work, I now get up at 3 am, make coffee, then read for 30 to 45 minutes. This removes all distractions, helps me find that happy mental state and gives me a much-needed sense of accomplishment not found when wrestling with the email monster first thing in the morning.

Every major task now has a time associated with it. No more wasting time checking Twitter. I’m giving myself a set amount of time each day to check social media and emails, in addition to going to the gym, meetings and any other activity likely to happen with frequency. This will prevent needless time wasting, allow me to see how my time is being spent and make me aware of my capacity to take on more work.

If it’s important, it goes on the calendar. I hate talking on the phone, preferring to send emails or texts. But that’s not always feasible, or suggested, especially when it comes to calling your mom. I realized that it’s not so much that I hate talking on the phone as it is because it’s not on the calendar, it’s not a priority, meaning I can keep pushing it back. Not anymore. Now “call mom” is on the calendar for every Wednesday at 1 pm.

I’m slaying the I-need-to-know-everything-about-everything dragon. Instead of researching the hell out of every piece of content I wish to create, I’m giving myself a predetermined amount of time to research the topic, then I’m starting the writing process. I’m committed to creating more content in 2015. Spending hours needlessly studying the minute details of a subject is a diminishing returns investment at best.

A notepad and pen accompany me everywhere. My best ideas always come when I’m in the car or at the gym, neither of which provides the ideal opportunity to capture ideas. I have a plan, though: When I first sit in the car, I reach for the pen and pad, not the keys, since the ideas are usually flowing. I start writing and don’t stop until the tide ebbs. Once at the gym, I park the car and continue taking notes, then do the same on a bench inside the dressing room if the inspiration is still present.

Transparency and authenticity are being embraced, not just championed. For as much as I love and enjoy being around people, sharing doesn’t come easily for me. I value my privacy. Slowly, however, I’m sharing more about myself in conversations and interactions with others. I think it’s helping me as much as them. Either way, I’m making it happen, comfort be damned.

These are but a few ways I’m forcing domestication upon my obsessiveness. The goal isn’t to turn it into a kitten so much as is to keep it from being a raging lion. So far so good.

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One year ago

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Learning about the front-end can seem like a daunting task these days — especially if you’re a beginner. It’s easy to feel like you have to master a thousand different tools and technologies just to get started. The good news is, this isn’t the case.

If you’re new to front-end development, I suggest staying close to the grain: just use HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Build with them, learn them inside out, experiment with them. These languages have some amazing primitives that we sometimes forget the raw power of.

As your familiarity with these languages improve, you can then add tools and abstractions into the mix when you’ve confirmed they improve your productivity and help you manage complexity.

Thorough experience with the fundamentals will make it easier for you to pick up Sass, JavaScript tooling, build process and the other tools we use to build larger projects these days.

Signed — someone who burns most of their calories at the gym untangling headphones.

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