You can do it all. You just can't do it all at once.

03 September 2019

If you’re anything like me, you want to drive cross-country, see the national parks, start a company, pay your bills, build a boat, keep your house clean, have a loving relationship, maintain friendships, get fit, make the world a better place, write a book, eat amazing food, take on a new hobby, watch the game, binge some Netflix, play with your dog, get outdoors at least once a week, and take an art class.

Tomorrow night, you’ll think of something that needs to go at the top of the list. It’s overwhelming. How can you do it all?

You can’t. At least, you can’t do it all at once. So don’t think of it all at once.

I’m a boat person. When I was a kid, my big brother worked on old sailboats. He collected books on boat design, and he got me into it. When I was 14, I built my first boat, a very small, very ugly Bolger Shoebox. The name says it all. It wasn’t even six feet long but could row two adults.

In college, I moved to Maine in the summertime and worked on schooners. Long days. We barely got paid. But we spent the whole day on the water keeping a 19th Century working class tradition alive.

These boats were extremely low-tech. We didn’t have winches or fancy sailboat hardware. It was all old school. We didn’t wear gloves – we grew them. Something broken on the bowsprit? Climb out there and fix it. No harnesses. No safety nets. It was dangerous work. And it was fun.

It felt so good, so much better than my desk job now. Man, did I sleep well during those summers.

Traditional boats were so cool. It was a living history. I was hooked. Rowing and sailing old boats would be something I kept doing. And when I got a decent paying job as a web developer and saw how many cheap wooden boats there were for sale on Craigslist – I mean really cheap; more people want to build them than want to buy them – I started hoarding.

But wooden boats take a lot of maintenance. You have to keep them dry or they rot. You have to keep them painted or they rot. You get the idea.

Before long, I wasn’t messing about in boats anymore. I was maintaining a backyard museum fleet. And I was spending money on boats I wasn’t using with the idea that I might turn a little profit after I fixed them up.

I wanted to go hiking, traveling, learning, hanging out – all of it. But I was chained to misguided possibility. Sure, a classic boat in good shape for a few hundred bucks is a deal. Opportunity cost was killing me when I could have been having so much more fun or purposeful doing just about anything else!

I fell in love with boats because it’s fun to get on the water. Here I was spending weekends in my back yard instead of out on the sea.

Meanwhile, at my day job, I dreamed of leaving it and starting my own business. Why did I procrastinate on that idea by distracting myself with an obsessive hobby?

Here’s the deal. If it’s something big, then it’s either your full time job, your primary hobby, or you’re not going to do it well. And why do something if it’s taking you away from where you want to go?

So pick one big thing. Or pick a few little things. But don’t try to do everything.

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I'm a creative front-end developer. I blog about work, life and the work-life balance. I like to collaborate. Especially with designers. Have a project you'd like to work on together? Let me know.