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Know Your Own Limits, and Respect Them

As any highly motivated person knows, it’s easily to become so immersed in everything that’s going on and propel yourself beyond your limits.  Whether we’re talking about the number of sets and repetitions we push ourselves through at the gym, the academic workload we carry, or the number of tasks we tackle in a given day, the motivated humanoid finds himself constantly jacked in, working his mind and churning out new ideas.

Nowhere in that equation can variables for “sleep” or “relaxation” be found.

:: The Double-Edged Sword of Motivation ::

This self-drive is often a gift that offers up boundless productivity and allows me to accomplish my goals.  Motivation is almost always positive, and being highly motivated means that I’m able to take ordinary tasks and find a reason to be enthusiastic about completing it.  This is actually cheating in my book, because it serves to turn task to activity.  It makes you enjoy what you’re doing and so you do it gladly, leaving procrastination to the wind.  It’s highly effective, and the only type of cheating I recommend.

This limitless drive can also be a curse.  It means flooring the accelerator in a car without brakes, heading towards an ever-approaching cliff.  For example, there are innumerable ideas floating around in my head about how I could better improve my campaign, my routine, my academic potential, my standing in The Maneater, and how I can ensure I reach the heights I hope to by my senior year at MU (not Monster’s University).

My brain starts churning out new ideas and prompting me to make new choices from the moment I awake, making the task of shutting it down every evening an increasingly difficult challenge.  To someone highly motivated, sleep can often appear as a hindrance. 

If I could just stay up all night instead of go to sleep, imagine how much more I could accomplish! 

Ultimately, this is unhealthy and counterproductive.  Losing substantial sleep is never a good thing, and it only serves to lower your peak performance.  We all have a peak performance, by the way; a time of day when we’re significantly more productive than any other time of day.  For me this is the early morning and mid-evening.  Those are the times when I can effectively block everything else and get things done.  For some it is late into the night, or in the middle of the afternoon.

I find myself thinking this way sometimes, especially last night as I tiredly returned to my room at 1:30 in the morning.  Ultimately, this is unhealthy and counterproductive.  Losing substantial sleep is never a good thing, and ensures that you’re going to hit a brick wall or plunge off the side of a cliff.  It is not a behavior that can be sustained in the long-term, even if it has some productive benefit when practiced in short bursts.  

In the long-term, we’re only hurting out productivity by not taking the time to shut down every night and remember that there’s more to life than whatever it is we’ve set our minds and hearts to.  We all have a peak performance time, for me this is the early morning and mid-evening, and it is during these times that we can most effectively ward off distractions and get things done.  Don’t spread our your productive energy throughout an entire day.  Doing that ensures you are always operating at about 25-50% of your potential.  I don’t know about you, but operating at 100% of my potential for a few hours a day as opposed to operating at half or a fourth of that for the entire day sounds like a much greater plan to me.

Get enough sleep, and take care of yourself so that you can be your best self.  The less time you spend being ‘sorta’ productive and instead championing your to-do list at the times of day that are best for you, you’ll do better off in the long-run and find yourself more able to, you know, have a life.

Put more simply: Know where to stop, or you’ll most certainly burst into flames.

:: note

This has been particularly applicable to my life since I started college a week ago.  As I immerse myself in the culture of my university and attempt to get involved in every sphere I can, I find myself constantly formulating how I'm going to improve my odds and accomplish everything.  A good friend of mine has often said she worries that my head is going to explode.

That said, I think mindfulness is on my side.  There is always the possibility I'll run myself off of a cliff, but I've been constantly aware of everything I'm taking on.  If I overburden, I cut.  Simple.

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