Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

posted by Andrea | 01/17/2017
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A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend who is VERY into exercise and physical fitness. She does some sort of workout almost every single day, she teaches yoga classes, she’s a member of a local gym, and… she runs outside in the freezing cold FOR FUN!

We were joking about how opposite we are on some things — like exercise (that I couldn’t care less about) or cooking and cleaning (that she couldn’t care less about as she is not married and doesn’t have kids).

However, one thing we both practice regularly is not pushing ourselves until we hate what we’re doing.

For example, she absolutely LOVES exercising, but if she has a cold or pulls a muscle or just isn’t feeling up to a rigorous exercise, she takes it easy for several days just doing some yoga, stretching, and walking on the treadmill. She doesn’t want to push herself so hard that she starts to dislike (or even hate) her daily exercises.

Similarly, I thoroughly enjoy cooking, cleaning, and so many other mundane domestic chores… but if I have an extra-busy week, if I’m super tired from waking up with kids at night, or if Dave has extra meetings and obligations in the evenings, I might plan to get takeout or order pizza a couple times during the week, and I definitely won’t push myself to keep every space in our home completely spotless.

My friend and I both know our limits, we do what we can within those limits, and we don’t keep pushing when we’ve reached those limits.

I suppose there are situations when continually pushing the limits could be advantageous (the first funny example that comes to mind is childbirth!) — but for the most part, I feel that too much pushing often causes unnecessary stress, burnout, and a very bitter taste towards the activity.

Let me give you a few more examples from my own life:

DIGITAL PHOTO BOOKS

I get asked SO many questions about my photo books — and although I’ve shared countless blog posts with lots and lots of images of my books, I think most people are still shocked when they realize how simple my digital photo books are.

I do not keep track of specific dates, I don’t write paragraphs of text or create fun captions for each picture, I don’t record the funny things my kids say or any specific quotes, and I really don’t include much detail at all. I simply put the month and then 5-7 pages of picture collages from that month.

There might come a time in my life when I enjoy making more time to add these details to my photo books; but right now, I enjoy that I can keep my books updated in 15-20 minutes a month and no stress. If I pushed myself to keep track of every little detail, I would no longer enjoy doing my photo books and I might just stop altogether.

READING: 

A couple months ago, I shared that I’ve actually been reading several books. I have NEVER EVER been a “reader” so the fact that I am currently reading 300+ page novels on a weekly basis is pretty insane!

I’ve really enjoyed reading digital books on my phone (I can thank Dave for this. He told me I’d love it, but I didn’t believe him until a few months ago!) and find it so convenient since I almost always have my phone with me everywhere I go.

Interestingly enough, from the very moment I mentioned my new reading hobby, I have had SO many people tell me about certain Apps they use to keep track of the books they read and how I should start making lists of everything I read (and still want to read) in different categories.

I completely understand the logic behind all of this, but I also completely do not care to keep a running list of the books I’ve read. I don’t have any reading goals, I don’t care if I read 10 books or 100 books this year, and I have a feeling if I read the same book twice, I’d realize it by the first or second chapter!

I know that if I pushed myself to meticulously keep track of the books I read, it would no longer be fun and I might just quit reading altogether.

BLOGGING:

Two weeks ago, I shared more about how I have significantly cut back on my business and blogging responsibilities in order to make more time for family and my own personal hobbies.

Yes, I love running my blog and truly do consider it to be my “dream job”, but I’m almost positive I would experience major burnout if I continually pushed myself to do more, be better, and grow bigger.

So I do as much as I can in the time I have, and I try to enjoy it all. Then I shut my computer down and enjoy the break… knowing that I will be able to wake up the next morning with a strong passion to continue doing what I love.

HOME ORGANIZING WITHOUT CUTE CONTAINERS OR LABELS: 

I feel a tiny twinge of envy every time I see a nicely decorated space with matching bins and fun little labels… but then I realize that is TOTALLY not my style at all.

I honestly don’t even own a label maker because it’s just too much hassle (in my opinion). That said, I definitely DO label various things in my home… with masking tape, post it notes, and markers!

Although I love a good organizing project, if I had to use matching bins and cute labels for all my stuff, I don’t think I’d be nearly as excited about my organizing projects. I would put off projects because I didn’t have the necessary supplies, and I’d end up with a less organized house and less enjoyment.

LANDSCAPING:

Working in my own garden is one of the most enjoyable things for me to do when the weather cooperates. I love the fresh air, I love looking over all my plants and flowers, and I love putzing around and thinking my own thoughts. This is very advantageous, because as many of you homeowners know, there is ALWAYS more yard work that can be done!

Dave and I have many stories (before kids) of working outside in pouring rain or in the pitch darkness with car headlights just to finish a yard project. Our neighbors must have thought we were insane!

Anyway, now that we have 3 young children to care for, the time I have to work in the yard is significantly less than it was 5 years ago… and to compensate, I’ve lowered my standards A LOT.

You may have seen our unruly vegetable garden that got completely taken over with weeds this past summer… but you know what, the kids really enjoyed the garden, and we actually got a huge amount of produce from it.

There might be more weeds and a handful of unpruned shrubs in our landscape, but that’s because I haven’t been pushing myself to the point where I hate working in the yard. I do as much as I can and then I quit and move onto the next thing.

 

I think you get the idea! 

This thought process could be applied to almost any facet of life — cooking, cleaning, exercising, dieting, working, singing, reading, or any other number of hobbies.

If you truly get to the point where you hate doing something, it probably means you’re pushing yourself too far and too hard.

So what can we do?

I’d suggest taking a complete break — several days to several months (depending on the situation).

After your break, it’s probably best to come up with a simple plan of action to prevent yourself from reaching that point of hatred again.

Maybe you only exercise 3 days a week instead of 6 or 7. Maybe you strive to read 1 book a month instead of 1 book a week. Maybe you take a vacation from work but don’t go anywhere — just enjoy resting at home. Maybe you scale back the birthday parties to just cake and ice cream instead of a full dinner. Maybe you plan 2-3 weeks of super simple menus that involve several nights of takeout, pizza, sandwiches, or frozen dinners. Maybe you hire a babysitter for one morning or afternoon each week so you get a break from the kids (not that I’ve ever wanted a break from my kids!)

Whatever the case, a complete break from that activity often brings clarity and perspective. You might realize that all you need to do is tweak a few things to make the activity more enjoyable again. Or, you might find that you need to take an extended break from a certain activity.

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I know I have personally benefited from these regular breaks, and (after lots of practice) have now learned to recognize when I’m pushing myself past the point of enjoyment and into the land of complete hatred.

NOTE: This is also REALLY important for parents and coaches to consider when dealing with our children and for employers to consider when dealing with employees.

There is a time and place for hard work, teamwork, responsibility, and commitment… but I see too many parents, coaches, and employers cross the line and push too hard until their children and employees hate the activity and end up burning out.

Have you ever pushed yourself too hard… to the point where you hated an activity you once loved?

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18 comments

  1. MrsD

    01/18/2017

    This is so good!! It took me almost 40 years to figure this out! I was always trying to exercise to lose weight so I would join a gym and/or set some vigorous exercise schedule out for myself. I would hate every second of it, get overwhelmed, and SURPRISE…quit! Repeat for 10 years!
    In 2015 I made a commitment to myself to move twice a week…any movement I wanted: dance video, dance with the kids, pilates video, take a walk….whatever my body wanted. I stuck with it because there was no pressure. I could do something I liked. Later in the year I asked myself if I could do 3 times a week…and I did. Then last year, I joined a yoga studio and started taking yoga classes 2/3 times a week and walking after dinner. Towards the end of last year, I asked my body what it needed….running! I NEVER EVER thought I would run. But I really enjoy it and especially the feeling I have the day after. I am exercising to feel better and look better….and I do!!

    Now, I just wish Andrea would have written this post a few years ago and maybe I would have learned the lesson sooner!! Ha ha!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — sorry I didn’t write this post sooner 🙂
    However, sometimes these types of lessons stick with us more when we “learn them the hard way” huh? Sounds like you are rockin’ it with your exercise routine. Way to go!

    [Reply]

  2. Pixie508

    01/17/2017

    I was a competitive swimmer for many years, and I worked at a pool until after college. When I finally stepped away, it was over 2 yrs before I got in a pool with the intention to swim laps. I needed a break. Swimming had gone from something I loved and was passionate about, to a chore. Even now, I only get in a pool to swim laps a few times a year. Sometimes I consider swimming more consistently, but I’ve got 2 young kids, and it just isn’t a priority for me right now (heck, I struggle to get to the gym once a week!)

    To one thing you mentioned in the blog:
    I too do a yearly photo book. I have a similar philosophy, and do a 2 pg spread for each month, and then if we go on vacation, or have a big family event, I’ll add a 2pg spread for that (for instance, a few summers ago, my cousin got married, and that entire side of the family was together for the first time since my wedding 5yrs prior, so we had a spread that included photos from the whole weekend). The one thing I do add that you mentioned you didn’t was just a little one line of text if we did something special, so in 15yrs, I’ll remember where it was (super simple – XYZ Museum, or Whatever Parade, or Grandparents Day at School, etc.) – it takes maybe an extra 30sec, but I feel like myself 15yrs in the future will be thankful when I’m flipping through after their HS graduation. I don’t have time to write blurbs, and I don’t write things that are obvious (“at the pool” or “at the zoo”), just special little events that come up, but a little title here and there is easy enough! I spend about the same amount of time you do – roughly 20min a month!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, if we go on vacation or do something special, I usually include that in the 2-3 sentence summary I write about each month, but nothing more than that at this point!

    [Reply]

  3. Carrie

    01/17/2017

    You have no idea how timely this post is for me right now. Thanks for the great advice…I now have my “reason” to quit something I hate doing and the motivation to get back on track in my life!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well good — glad to help!

    [Reply]

  4. Heidi

    01/17/2017

    Very well said! Thank you for the timely reminder! I get burned out on social media ALL the time. I feel like I have to do it perfect and ‘like’ everything and keep caught up with everyone’s posts. Then it becomes so not enjoyable and then I back out for a bit.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I know A LOT of people who burn out on social media and then totally get rid of it forever and always talk negatively about social media. I do think the social media CAN be a time-suck and CAN be overwhelming if we let it, but it doesn’t have to be.
    Good for you for stepping back for a bit!

    [Reply]

  5. Rhonda

    01/17/2017

    Ha ha Andrea, I guess Goodreads.com isn’t your thing 😉
    I find it more useful in discovering books I might like, rather than tracking and making lists. I got into it because my friend is an English teacher (that lives 2 hours away), and I can easily see what she reads, and her reviews help spark my interest in a variety of titles, because she reads so much.

    The same way you feel about reading apps, I feel similarly about activity trackers (Fit Bit, etc.) I can see how it would help motivate some people, but to me it’s just one more device to complicate my life – I am good about getting in at least a little activity most days of the week (even if it’s only 10 minute walks, once or more per day) – so it wouldn’t necessarily help me in this regard.

    Incentives and motivation are an interesting topic. I work part-time at my local hospital, and they recently promoted free health screenings to employees. The “reward” was a Garmin activity tracker. Although my employer had good intentions (and there’s obvious benefits to employee health), I wondered if there were more people like me who didn’t care about getting the reward, and thus weren’t motivated enough to do the screening.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — not really! I can’t even remember all the different websites and blogs and apps people suggested to me in regards to keeping track of my reading!

    Of course, I don’t care that they suggested it (and obviously, tons of people utilize those websites and apps) but it’s just not for me right now. It makes reading feel like a dreaded chore instead of something I can do for 5-10 minutes if I get some free time!

    And yes, incentives and motivation are interesting topics. I’ve heard many similar situations where companies will reward their employees with technology — but the only problem is, half the people don’t care about the prize so they won’t put in the work. I’ve found that cold hard cash is a fairly good motivator!

    [Reply]

    Rhonda Reply:

    It’s funny, I’m reading the “Happier at Home” book by Gretchen Rubin right now, and she has a section where she talks about the family photos and being behind on them (I am in the same situation – my kids are 3 and 6 and I’m about 2 years behind). She said it was an activity that she didn’t enjoy, because it was no longer “hands on” – ie, she couldn’t sit on her couch and put pictures into an album (well, she could if she ordered prints). The new process of being in front of her computer to put them into Shutterfly books wasn’t as appealing or enjoyable. But she chose to get it done by putting aside just 15 minutes each day (and no more), until she got the job done. And she also decided that they didn’t have to be “perfect” – just having them will be a treasure for years to come.

    [Reply]

  6. Angela

    01/17/2017

    Your take on the photo books has given me hope that I may just be able to get a handle on our family’s photos, when previously it seemed like much too big an undertaking. Now I see that simple photo books can hold just as many precious memories as elaborate ones. Something is better than nothing. I still haven’t gotten around to doing it (because I figure the pictures aren’t going anywhere so it’s not an urgent priority), but it feels like an attainable goal. I’m also using the “something is better than nothing” attitude in terms of exercising – I don’t enjoy it either, and I’m content with my body as-is, but I’m seeing as I get older that I need a little bit of stretching to keep my back feeling good and energy level up. So I’m aiming to just do a little something daily, again, because something is better than nothing, and a little adds up to a lot! : ) I’m also similar with landscaping – I’m finding myself simplifying my flower beds a bit each year to make them easier to maintain so that my hobby continues to be enjoyable and not overwhelming. Great perspective!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, you’re right — the photos most likely aren’t going anywhere 🙂
    Glad to give you a little motivation and hope!

    [Reply]

  7. Beatriz

    01/17/2017

    Yes! I did that last year with the garden, I really start with the best of intentions and then all of a sudden the weeds are calling the shots 🙁

    This year I’m going to let the wildflowers run wild and maybe, maybe do some veggies. Maybe.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I ALWAYS start my garden with the best of intention and it ALWAYS gets overgrown with weeds by the Forth of July!

    [Reply]

  8. Leslie

    01/17/2017

    I got a kick out of your container/label paragraph! I can’t for the life of me figure out why “organizers” (on Pinterest on blogs) insist on labeling everything that’s in a clear container. Unless it’s something that could be easily confused with something else, like baking soda and baking powder, or similar flours, why on earth would you have to label your clear container. Can a person not see that it contains brown sugar, marshmallows, kidney beans, penne pasta, pretzels, Cheez-its, Cheerios, coconut, Oreos, granola bars, etc.?? And if I had to search all over town for a matching set of bins or baskets, along with cutesy chalkboard labels, I’d personally go nuts. I’d rather edit and eliminate the stuff I have and use Mason jars, shoe boxes, etc. In other words, edit your stuff instead of buying more organizers, and shop what you have instead of buying. (And stop labeling clear containers LOL). Thanks for letting me vent.

    [Reply]

  9. Brenda

    01/17/2017

    Yes!!! I see this all the time with myself making dinner after the holidays; I couldn’t care less what my family ate. I’d be ok with cereal for dinner. Usually, around February I am back in the swing of things.

    Also, see it with coaches and my kids. Good Points!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yup, I know what you mean! I usually doesn’t take me until February to get back into the swing of things, but Dave’s first week back at school after Christmas break is always a bit rough around here!

    [Reply]