6/19/2018

How I Handle Stress and Overwhelm

A friend of mine recently took a new job, and in a message to me said that they were worried about not liking the new position. Their reasoning wasn’t something that I would consider “normal” like the management sucks, the pay isn’t great, or their coworkers sucked. This was something more personal.

The reason they gave was because they were stressed and felt overwhelmed every single day at their new job. This got me thinking about those two words. “Stress” and “Overwhelm” are two very different words if you ask me.

To me, being stressed is the pressure you feel when you have a lot on your plate, it is when you are in the “busy season” of your annual work year. Being overwhelmed is when you have that kind of stress and then can’t find a way to make it all work.

I know that the idea of stress being anything other than negative sounds odd, but for me it is a means to push myself. My experience with stress and overwhelm isn’t something new. I have been working in television since I was in high school in some form, and if you ask me that is one of the more stressful jobs you can have. Every single job I have had in television, whether it was in high school, college (both unpaid and volunteered), or professionally, I have encountered these feelings. I felt this waterfall of stress wash over me like a hurricane. I worried it was too much for me to handle.

For those of you who don’t work in a high-stress environments like TV news, it can be a hellstorm that never ends. Deadlines need to be hit, things need to be working properly (there are a ton of technical pieces between recording the video on a camera and then broadcasting it over the air), and you have to know what to do before it even happens. Broadcasting isn’t for everyone, but I know these kinds of environments is where I thrive. I have known it for the better part of a decade.

High-stress, time-sensitive environments makes me feel at home. It is something that I not only thrive in, but is normal for me. Which can be a gift and a curse at the same time. Working in environments where at the end of each day you can’t believe you managed to get things to go as well as they did, the mundane can be agonizing. My fiancé, who has been with me for over 6 years, knows the naked fact that I don’t know how to relax.

I don’t know what came first, my love for high-stress working environments, or my inability to deal with downtime. For instance, when I am spending time with her, or just with our friends in general, she know the gears in my head are always turning.

“What could I be doing for my work that I am not doing right now?”

“Should I start this new project?”

“What about that thing I got in my email? I really need to get back to the guy who emailed me about that one thing.”

This has zero to do with the company I am with, I love all my friends and family, and I want to be present with them. But that isn’t always possible with me. It feels as if my wiring is a bit off because I prefer to be working on things alone in a room with a keyboard and iPad over relaxing and putting my feet up after my full-time job. Even if there is a little bit of gas left in me, I have to keep going until I hit empty.

I am what some people call a “workaholic”. Now, I know that I need to work on this, but I also know that I love all the projects and work I do outside of my full-time job. I love having two podcasts, a blog, a weekly email newsletter, and a slack channel that people can connect with me on 24/7. All of these things make me happy, and the culmination of them all gives me that sense of high-stress I thrive in.

But this is all about stress, not overwhelm. I rarely felt overwhelm in the multitude of tasks and projects I had to do at work and on the side. The bottom never fell out from under me when I was handling all these things.

I wasn’t always like this though, in fact I was a person that was very hard to motivate to do anything. I was always creative, but I never sought to pursue my creative ideas into something tangible. I was overwhelmed.

Instead of working on things that I could do, I would sit around and make lists of dreams I had, goals I wanted to accomplish, and ideas for creative projects. I was just creating this long list of things I either couldn’t, or didn’t want to pursue. I couldn’t because I either didn’t have people willing to work with me on it, or I didn’t want to because that involved a lot of work. Work I didn’t know was possible from me. The list grew as if it had Giantism. This list haunted me for quite some time as a quiet nagging thought that always itched, but could never be scratched. Eventually that list became the size of a short novel.

With all these dreams and goals I had, I eventually began to realize all the small things I could be doing but that I’m not doing. This list of things I am not doing became my true source of overwhelm. It was a list hanging over me like a boulder 20 stories above me wrapped in twine, ready to break any second. I had the grandiose ideas to make films, write a book, finish a movie script, and create something beloved by all. If only I was good enough. If only I had what it takes. I shouldn’t even bother trying, I will only hate it. This was my feedback loop, and it was the source of my overwhelm and stress simultaneously.

This is what some call Imposter Syndrome, and it is a hell of a thing to deal with. You feel you are just at the cusp of being “found out,” that your talents are all lies, and no matter what people say they are just being nice and not actually meaning it. It is like having the ability to accomplish anything you want, but you quit before you even start. Imposter Syndrome is a term I use all too often, and something I constantly battle with, but when I finally get something past that gate it becomes the only thing I think about.

Inspiration comes to me from many places, much like you I assume. Whether it is a podcast, TV show, movie, or even something organic that comes to my head, if that something gets started in any minor way there’s nothing to get in my way.

I think this has a lot to do with the workaholic mentality I have, I get a project and I immediately begin working on it. I outline my goals, I write out my plans and I start working on some minor things. Next thing I know it has been 5 hours and I haven’t eaten anything all day. Rinse and repeat.

That is when my feedback loops come in:

“Geez, I have a lot on my plate with this new project, I think I should probably slow down.”

“But if I slow down I won’t get it done.”

“But if I don’t I am going to get burnt out, I really should stop.”

“Jeff, you’re so close to getting this part done, just get through this part and take a break.”

“Oh man, that part is awesome, I really see how this will incorporate with this other part I still need to work on.”

“Let’s just get this part done.”

“Man, I really need to slow down I have a lot on my plate.”

Rinse and repeat.

Eventually this gave me that stress I was talking about earlier. it becomes the drive I need to keep going, but this is a double-edged sword. The more stress I get the more work I want to get done, but the more work I have to do the more stressed I get. It was a balancing act to keep myself driven with high-stress environments but not too stressed to where I get overwhelmed and then give up. I needed that sweet spot.

I am like a dog that has a machine to throw the ball every time I put it in the bucket. I keep going and going until I am physically and mentally exhausted. It’s unhealthy, but I am yet to find something that is a good alternative for me.

Eventually I do get a moment of clarity and decide to take a break and make this work part of my routine rather than trying to sprint through an entire marathon. That is when I start planning out the rest of this project, bit by bit and line by line.

Every small task is added to the list, some get sub-tasks, and I eventually spit out a 100+ task list that I immediately get overwhelmed about. I am getting that waterfall of overwhelmedness again and I don’t think I can keep going with the project.

At this point, after everything I have done, I make a decision to either kill this project and do it another time (aka never) or I persevere and press onward because that is what I should do. What do I do to determine what projects to keep or kill? Whatever makes me excited even when I am not working on it. That is what I want in something I work on, consistent delight and excitement.

If there is something that I am working on that I feel has lost its luster, I always have the thought of killing the project to work on something new. This has burned me before, with constant changes every few months because I “lost interest.” With that, I always tell myself that one day I will find that thing that makes me feel like nothing is work, but I am coming to realize that isn’t something that happens often.

Even writing for Tablet Habit has felt like “work” in some instances, and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about killing this blog to make time for something new. But when I have those thoughts, something that I rarely do with my other projects happens. I think about the things that I love about this and how many things I have gained from this. The pros outweighs the cons tenfold and that is what I need to light a fire under me and continue to make things worthwhile.

So, what does this mean for me going forward? I have learned how to make sure that I am working on things that I love, and kill the things I don’t, but not without a serious look at the pros and cons of the things I do in the projects I consider killing. If I didn’t do that I would just be a conveyor belt of projects that start with a a fiery flame but fizzle out spectacularly.

But I started talking about stress and overwhelm, so let me circle back on that in relation to the projects I work on. The projects I work on can be stressful at times, but as I said before I thrive in that kind of environment. I am able to make that stress something that pushes me to do bigger and better things than I have before.

However, when I no longer feel that delight, or excitement I look at all of these things causing me stress and no longer use it as a means to push myself. It flips on me and becomes a source of overwhelm. This is when the things that I am working on becomes “work” and no longer becomes fun.

For me, I can’t keep killing projects as soon at the going gets tough, I have done that for too long and, frankly, I am tired of it. So, when I think about ending something that I have invested a lot of my time and energy on I no longer hastily halt all operations. Instead, I plan to really look over the pros and cons of those projects and make my decision then.

Whether this will work or not is still to be decided but I will say that I feel that I am on a better foundation than I was before I started thinking about this after my friend came to me for advice. So if you feel stress, use it. If you feel overwhelm, look into what is the root of this is and use that to make a decision on what should happen about it.

6/18/2018

WWDC Wrap Up - ASoG 9

Christopher and I talk about our feelings and excitement with WWDC 2018. We go deep into the iOS announcements and what these added features mean for iOS users come September when it comes out.

Download MP3

6/12/2018

Join The Tablet Habit Slack

A while back I created a Slack group called The iPad Only Club, which was for people who use their iPad as their main device to come together and be a part of a group of like-minded individuals. I wanted to form a community, a place for people to come and share their thoughts on Apple news, their workflows, app recommendations, and so on. But I felt that making it an iPad only club was excluding people who read this blog that don’t use their iPads as much as someone like me does.

So today, I have decided to expand this club to anyone who loves Apple tech. This can be fans of iOS, macOS, or simply people who want to be part of a community. There are several channels you get access to when you join. Like #ios12, which is all about the iOS 12 beta and release coming in a few months. Also #bloggers-writers for anyone who also writes and/or blogs about tech that wants to be in a group for both inspiration and motivation from other writers and bloggers.

This Slack may have been around for a while, but I am doubling down on this small community simply because I love the people in it and I can’t wait to see what comes next from it. So if you want to be part of this community please feel free to sign up and join over at iPadOnly.club, or just click the Chat link at the top in the Menu.

Please note, even if you have a Slack account you will need to sign up as each slack group requires a separate login.

If you do find yourself having trouble signing up feel free to contact me or send me a message on Twitter. I can’t wait to see you over there!

6/11/2018

How Siri Shortcuts Can Revolutionize iOS Automation

David Sparks really sums up my excitement for Siri Shortcuts in ways better than I ever could, but this bit takes the cake on how I feel about automation and iOS.

David Sparks from MacSparky:

I’ve always felt that the iPhone and iPad could be capable of so much more with deeper automation. For so long Apple showed no interest in automation, and I’d convinced myself that they were afraid to get that geeky all over their new mobile operating system. I’m not alone in this. However, with the Workflow acquisition, it feels like we have now embedded, inside Apple, a group of our brother and sister automation nerds and they are running wild all over the iOS operating system. I couldn’t be happier. I hope that when iOS 12 ships, Siri Shortcuts delivers the goods we’ve seen so far. I also hope Apple management never wises up to the automation revolution that may result.

Siri Shortcuts seems to really be Workflow 2.0. It doesn’t seem to have been dumbed down in any way, and for that I am beyond thankful someone at Apple stuck to their guns and allowed the iPhone and iPad continue to have the power it gained with Workflow and beyond.

6/8/2018

iPad Gets iPhone X Gestures

Stephen Silver from AppleInsider:

Many of the iOS gestures that debuted last year with the iPhone X will come to a wider variety of devices later this year when iOS 12 is released, including the iPad, AppleInsider has confirmed after downloading the beta to a first-generation iPad Pro. New gestures that debuted in the iPhone X, released late last year, included swiping up from the gesture bar to get to the lock screen, and swiping up again to reach the home screen.

In order to get to the switcher, users can also swipe up from the gesture bar and pause. In addition, swiping down from anywhere on screen will open the app that’s in the center.

I have mixed feelings on this, but I think it makes sense given this:

The iPad adopting iPhone X-like gestures may indicate that the the next generation of iPads could be subtracting the home button as well.

On top of the gestures, there have been leaked images showing that the iOS 12 beta for the iPad does indeed have a Face ID menu in the settings

So look out everyone, new iPads that are more like the iPhone X are coming.

6/6/2018

Siri Shortcuts Questions - WorkFlow Wednesday

With WWDC Keynote now done and the sessions beginning, I think it’s time to start talking about the features that Apple has presented to us in the last 48 hours. Namely Siri Shortcuts.

This, to me, was by far the most exciting announcement in all of the keynote. Workflow lives on, and it is now built into the OS. The screenshots and the look of the app is very similar to that of Workflow.

Before I get into what I think, a bit of a history lesson is important to note. Workflow has long been a beloved app to power users of iOS and without it the iPad doesn’t feel like an honest-to-god replacement for the Mac. Workflow has become a pillar for iOS users to lean on when they hit a wall due to limitations in sand boxing.

Workflow is the bridge between the apps we love and allows for some powerful and interesting ways to get our work done. Without Workflow, I would probably still have an iPad as my main device but it wouldn’t be nearly as effective. It would be a chore to move things from one app to another, and this is why this one app is so important. It is also why when the announcement was made that this app would be acquired by Apple, along with its team, we all started to worry.

We have seen things like this happen before. A big company buys a team of very talented developers to join them, then the app is “sunset.” This has happened to things like email clients and other app that are a dime a dozen. But workflow is one of a kind. It is a unicorn of a tool that, if removed, would shatter a lot of people’s day-to-day operations. Especially mine.

Workflow has since been updated since the acquisition, and that allowed us power users to breathe. But when Siri Shortcuts was announced, a lot of people, including myself, got worried again about the future of Workflow.

There are a lot of questions still to be answered. Siri Shortcuts isn’t even on the iOS 12 beta as of now. But I have a list of questions I want answered before I can ease off on my apprehensive attitude on this new addition to iOS.

1.) Is this app going to replace Workflow, or will it just be an addition?

2.) If this is replacing Workflow, will I be able to import my current workflows without sacrifice?

3.) How powerful will this app be for automation?

4.) Can I trigger this without Siri? For instance, as an action in the Share Sheet?

5.) Is there a limitation on how many actions happen in a single workflow?

6.) There seems to be some kind of scripting possible with Siri Shortcuts, but what kinds of scripting is available?

I failed to watch the live stream of the WWDC session on Siri Shortcuts last night due to work, so if you know the answers to these questions, feel free to let me know on Twitter.

Siri Shortcuts is still an exciting feature for me. However, until we learn more I will contain my excitement for now. I just worry that this might be a “two steps back, one step forward” kind of change for iOS.

So I beg of you Apple, please know you are dealing with a delicate tool that could break a lot of our, well, workflows.

Tablet Habit is a website created by Jeff Perry