What is Enough?

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I’m sure that if you’re a musician, teacher, self-employed person, or human being who reads things on the internet, you’re tired of hearing about hustle. We all know that you need to do the work in order to succeed in your endeavors, but do we really have to work all of the time?

What I want to tell you today is that you are probably doing enough, more than enough, in fact. That is also what I want to tell myself, but part of me doesn’t want to hear that. That part of me wants to keep doing ALL THE THINGS. But, the truth is, I am almost never more than two steps away from burnout.

I’m a week and a half out from spring break (which happens to be pretty late in the year), and kind of losing my mind. And the main reason is that I never let the amount of work I do in a day be enough.

Enough.

What does that even mean? I’m just supposed to work until I get to the end of my to-do list, right?

Recently, I had a great coaching session with Katie Lee, and one of the instructions she gave me was to define what “enough” is for myself, in a given day, week, month. Setting limits on my time makes sense to me, and I have some success with it, but trying to set limits on the amount of work has actually been pretty hard to do - I’m addicted to work. I’ve been programmed with a midwestern work ethic, and in a society that glorifies being busy, it almost feels subversive to reduce the amount of work I’m doing.

Over the weekend, despite relaxing quite a bit, I felt unbelievably exhausted, moody, and irritable. (Hello, signs of burnout!) As this article explains, burnout is not a sudden state that you find yourself in, it’s a slow leak that creeps up on you (although you may not notice). I relate to many of the signs they listed. Teachers are definitely at risk for burnout, and people with my workaholic personality. So, I keep reminding myself that rest is part of the cycle of my work - I will not be able to function well if I don’t rest. (Easier said than done.)

I am generally pretty aware of things I should be doing to reduce stress and overwhelm (create more white space on my calendar, etc.) But, the thing is, you actually have to do them! I am so sneaky that I bought a new planner with the intention of linking my goals, habits, and positive messages to my schedule and to-do list, but despite the fact that I write “REST WHEN NEEDED” in big letters under “Today’s Priorities”, I’m not even doing it! The more tired I get, the harder it is to actually do those better habits. I think this means that I need a bigger shift.

I’ve set reminders each hour for positive messages and to lie on the floor for a mental reset, which is helping, but I find myself hitting “complete” and thinking I’ll do it in 5 minutes, or ignoring them completely. Not so good.

So, I signed up for Mara Glatzel’s The Deep Exhale, a course about rest. A course about rest! Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? I should know how to rest on my own. But, clearly I don’t. Or, if I know how, I’m not succeeding at actually doing it. Time to ask for assistance, and her work is great.

 (No one is paying me to talk about this, I’m just excited about it.)

(No one is paying me to talk about this, I’m just excited about it.)

Usually I like to include some actionable advice, but today I’m going to leave that to Holly Lowery, whose podcast I’ve been enjoying. The latest episode of Well + Weird is all about overwhelm, and she has some great suggestions, so go listen to that here

Even though it feels like this post should be more about music, trust me, I’ve been doing enough of that. You need fewer things to do, and so do I. If you need permission to do less in some area of your life - here it is! You’re doing enough, I’m sure of it. Burnout is real. Let’s not get burned out.

(Okay, you got me, this post is actually a pep talk for myself. But it's also for you!)

Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer