How to Let Go of Having It All

In viewing an infographic developed by JESS3 that aims to give readers a peek inside the mind of freelancers, I was completely unsurprised to learn that “lack of clear direction / path” is one of the top three things that keeps freelancers up at night.

I can certainly relate. I’ve recently been engulfed in my own period of ennui. Though I’ve been working on many different things, I’ve been feeling a bit ambivalent about it all. As I asked my husband just the other day, “What the hell am I even working toward!?

(I also suggested that I might do better as a housewife, but Michael just rolled his eyes and told me I’d snap out of it soon.)

Part of this is probably due to stress over unsuccessful IUI treatments, the continuing short sale process, and the up-in-the-air status of my book.

But could it also be that – gasp! — I’m just doing too much?

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve been working on lately:

  • writing/revising my book
  • sending out Word Nerd News every month
  • blogging on this here bloggity-blog
  • taking on one or two new coaching clients every month
  • planning a yoga/writing workshop with a fellow writer/yogi
  • interviewing to be a volunteer mentor with Girls Write Now
  • attending Toastmasters meetings as a means of improving my public speaking skills
  • developing an online community for word nerds
  • ghostwriting a book with a couples counselor
  • sending out magazine queries
  • writing articles for several print and online magazines
  • drawing up proposals to manage online publicity for several different clients
  • copyediting other people’s books

Also in the cards for my near future:

  • finally writing my full 5 Weeks to Freelance Awesome ebook
  • entering a yoga teacher training program

All of it is connected in some way. But I can’t help feeling scattered. Burnt out by the hustle. Confused about what I’m working toward.

Anne-Marie Slaughter recently wrote in The Atlantic that women still can’t have it all. Forget having it all (career, babies, work/life balance, etc.). I’ve been trying too hard to achieve it all in my career alone. Too many ideas that I’m totally excited about. Too little bandwidth!

Laura Vanderkam recently did up a brief but brilliant post that asks the question: “What are you willing not to achieve?” She writes that “part of being focused on certain goals means you may need to release other very good ideas that could consume your time as well.”

Sigh. Indeed.

I recently wrote in the latest issue of Word Nerd News that we should all take a look at our income, pinpoint the biggest moneymakers, and focus on those for the rest of the year as a means of boosting our bottom lines. And that’s certainly one way to achieve more focus. But you could also:

  • envision your ideal day and cut out the things that don’t contribute to those goals
  • outsource the tedious but necessary parts of your business
  • take a good, hard look at the items on your plate, and be honest with yourself about the work that no longer excites you
  • if your platform  has felt fractured as of late, aim to cut out what doesn’t belong (one of these things is not like the  other…)
  • to that end, draw up an elevator pitch you feel accurately represents your personal brand; what do you have a hard time fitting in?
  • give up and become a full-time housewife (j/k! maybe!)

So let’s hear it. What are you willing not to achieve?

Related: Freelancedom Book Discussion: The Wealthy Freelancer, Career Stalled? What You’re Doing Wrong


  1. Great post. I so relate to the idea that boosting our bottom lines is not the only way to achieve more focus — and more happiness. I particularly like the first three; envisioning the ideal day, outsourcing the tedious, and letting go of work that no longer excites. I am perfectly willing to give up making millions (ha! ha! like that was an option) for a more balanced life. We can have it all, just not all at once.

  2. Hey Steph — this is such a great question. I’ve been discovering how cluttered I feel in terms of all the writing projects I have going on. I really do think it’s important to ask this question and be honest with ourselves. For example, a friend sent me a potential writing gig and while it intrigued me, I wrote out all the projects I was already working as well as the ones I’m about to take on, and I said to myself, “it’s just not worth it.” A few months ago, I would have taken any job thrown my way, but now, I think it’s okay to start picking and choosing — especially trying to work on things we enjoy as writers!

  3. Is it the doldrums of July that prompts this introspection? I’m there, too. My plate is nowhere near as full as yours but I’m still asking these questions with what I have. I’m learning I need to leave jobs on the table that aren’t in my wheelhouse.

  4. That is an awesome – and eerily accurate – infographic. And I’m not sure I can answer your question about what I’m willing NOT to achieve. I did a lot of fractured experimenting in my first freelance year and let a lot of things go (catering? nope! PR? ugh!), so I feel like I’m pushing myself in exactly the right direction. People keep trying to pigeonhole me into a coaching gig, but I’m resisting that so far….

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