KASHISH KALWANI breaks her goals into smaller chunks and finds more in doing less. She suggests how this can help us all accomplish goals without pushing ourselves to the point of burn out.
As common thinking-problem types go, I’m type 1,“all-or-nothing” thinking. Everyday I juggle many roles. I am a wife, a full-time graduate student, I work a part-time job, and am a meditation instructor, a volunteer for a non-profit organization, as well as adjusting to a new continent and culture! And I love to talk about this. I feel productive. I feel I have the hang of life. At 23, I also feel pretty burnt out and overwhelmed.
Despite having so much on my plate, and recently winning a super-cool college competition, I felt bummed after a conversation with my classmate. My friend had figured out her summer internships for the semester. She had three interviews lined up and was applying for more. And here I was, struggling to complete my assignment, which was due yesterday. Imposter syndrome is real. I want it all: perfect grades, lots of courses, internships, a thriving social life, a good sleep schedule, home-cooked meals, spending time with my husband, and self-care!
The more I do, the less satisfied I feel.
Is there is a point of saturation for satisfaction? After winning a competition and relishing the win for two days, I am now constantly worried about the internationals next month. I’m not kind enough to myself because nothing I do makes me satisfied. And this feeling only increases. With so much to learn in this world, so much art and media, skills, and knowledge, I WANT IT ALL.
I am blessed to have a wonderful support system of family and friends. One of my friends compared me to an elastic band: “It’s okay to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone [which clearly, I am good at]; but be careful not to stretch yourself to the point of snapping or you will never come back to your original shape.”
I then spent moments ruminating over this lovely visual example. “What is my original state? What is the bigger picture?” I found my answer in The Lord of the Rings.
For years I have wanted to read the formidable series by J.R.R. Tolkien. As a full-time graduate student, it is hard to find time to read for pleasure,however, not this year! I did not want to give up, so I chose a different strategy. Instead of pushing myself through another intimidating goal, I went for a bite-sized goal. As a Gen-Z, we love bite-sized content. We push out creativity in smaller and tinier time frames. And it’s enough for our brain to take in.
It was set. 5 pages a day. No more, no less.
There are some 1300 pages in The Lord of the Rings series, including The Hobbit. If I read 5 pages a day, I should complete the series in 260 days. That’s this year!
And wow, did I feel more relaxed. I might just be able to finish the series this year!It was a eureka moment for me – as a person with an“all or nothing” approach, I am either too scared to begin a project because I want it to be perfect, or I don’t do it at all.
And that’s not cool either way. I end up losing so much by not beginning and being burnt out in striving for perfection.I end up not giving space and grace to myself to keep doing better each day, and I miss out on the joy of being a beginner in something where every mistake is a learning point.
With these small goals, I am actively taking steps to incorporate “less” and get “more.” Here are a few more ways.
- One internship application a day. I break it down to even smaller tasks everyday like:
- Work on the resume
- Reach out to a professor for a recommendation
- Write a general statement of purpose essay
- Apply to one internship
- Apply to another …
- Take a break
- Five-minutes of movement is better than no movement at all. Even better, 1 Surya Namaskar a day.
- Five minutes of meditation a day. I’m showing up!
- One line a day in my journal. Forget the morning pages! Begin slow. Want to make it even smaller?One word a day. How do you feel? Write it in one word.
- One meal with my husband. Let it be a space for love. A ritual.
- Huge paperwork to file? File 2 papers a day. (Unless it’s tax – sadly, those things can’t wait.)
- Read 5 pages a day. One chapter a week. I’m finally carving time for the books I enjoy. It’s my most cherished evening ritual.
One day at a time? How about one hour at a time? This moment in time.
I haven’t reached the page yet where Gandalf shares his wisdom, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
I am getting there, 5 pages a day. More and more of less and less.
Kashish is currently a full-time graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Development Practice from Emory University, Atlanta, USA. Born in India, she spent her childhood in the UAE, Russia, Denmark, and India. She has a B.A. from the University of Delhi, a diploma in Bharatanatyam dance, and has volunteered with GRAVIS, Robinhood Army, Sarvahitey, and Girlz,... Read more