You ever have one of those days? Or weeks? You've got so much going on that you can't think straight, return calls, or even get work done?
I've talked to a couple of people recently (including myself) who are currently dealing with SO much that they're practically paralyzed. Dazed. It's like they need a good long nap. Or a cold bucket of Gatorade.
Without a doubt, getting some time and space will calm your overwhelm. And deliberate self-care will bring you back to a resourceful state once again. I will always say that it's critical you allow for time to do this.
But what happens while you're taking space to recover?
People who know and love you are affected by your sudden disappearance. As this pattern of intense work, overwhelm, withdrawal, and recovery runs its course, people who know you notice.
- Calls and emails getting returned slowly - or not at all
Tasks and commitments getting neglected
Your office space becoming messy (and possibly other areas)
Communication stops without explanation
Is it such a bad thing to "do" this overwhelm cycle? No. Honestly, it's not. When you're super creative or naturally energized by something, you just go with it until you're spent. That's just how you work. I think that this pattern can work - so long as you know you're doing it.
The important thing to realize is that the people around you are impacted by this cycle of yours.
The beauty of the "front load"
I'm not a domestic goddess particularly, but the front loading washing machine takes the cake. It uses less water and energy, so it's more efficient. It's easy to see what cycle the clothes are in. It's a work of art and functional equipment at the same time.
The "front load" is also a communication technique that you can use for the benefit of your clients and those close to you.
Let them see into your little circular window
Let's say you finally get that stroke-of-genius for that thing you've been wanting to work on forever. Or you're having that "oh-my-GAHD - I'm going to pull all my hair out" feeling. Or you look at your calendar and think, "How on earth am I going to live through the schedule I have next week?"
Anyone who will miss you while you disappear for a week or dive into that project so deeply you seem to be gone. "They" could be clients, support staff, your significant other. Whomever you think will feel the impact of your absence.
Just be honest.
That's the beauty of the "front load." If you've done this cycle your whole life, you've probably put a lot of energy into covering your tracks. Making it seem like you're really there. So talking about it might not come naturally... I assure you, the people you share it with will appreciate it.
A good place to start is to communicate when you're at the threshold of something that's going to take a lot of time, energy and/or focus. The idea is to front-load and tell your peeps before you disappear. But if you don't catch it that early, share with them when you notice the symptoms starting (the urge to withdraw, the urge to scream, the profound desire to be left alone, etc.).
Let them in on it and give as much notice as you can.
It can also be really helpful to explain what it might look like while you're "gone" and when you can reasonably be expected to "return."
Give your best guess - and then get down to doing what you need to do.
Why front load?
When you let important people see into your life and your process, they can be prepared for your absence. This also reassures them that you're the same person they know, you're just temporarily distracted.
It also allows you an opportunity to ask for support - something I think we all could benefit from learning to do better.
I saw an incredible example of front loading last week when ZenHabits blogger, Leo Babauta, was getting into the dense phase of writing his book.
He shared with his 50,800 readers that things were going to get pretty intense for him over the next few weeks and that he would be writing a little less on his blog. He also asked for their encouragement.
I encourage you to take a look at Leo's post. And after that, give some thought to how you'd like to make peace with your work cycles, how you want to share them with others, and how to ask for the support you deserve.