Aiming High: How to get the most out of hobbies and interests but still keep your energy levels up

Aiming high is one of the skills we need in life – but you don’t want to burn out and overcommit! See how to balance ambition, action and resilience (endurance) when it comes to doing things you love.

Have you ever fallen into the trap of wanting to do more things than you have time in the day for? Yep – we all do. When you have lots of hobbies, interests, and ambitions, it can be easy to overcommit yourself and end up getting burned out (which is the opposite of helpful when it comes to achieving your dreams!) Read on to learn some top tips in balancing these competing priorities.

Define your goals

The first step towards achieving your goals is to know what they are. Have you thought about what you really want, or are you overwhelmed by all the possibilities of things you could do?

Step back, slow down, and define your goals and ambitions. This might mean you need to prioritise – if you have one main goal, other things might end up getting less attention as a result. That can be absolutely fine, as long as you do it mindfully and intentionally.

Break your goals down into steps

Now you know where you want to get to, you need to break it down into the tasks and steps that will get you there. Sit down and brainstorm all the things you’ll need to do to achieve your goal. Nothing is too small or insignificant at this stage. Write down absolutely everything you can think of. When you’ve got your list of ideas, put them into a sensible order. Congratulations, you’ve just made a plan!

Repeat this process for all the big goals you want to reach. But be sensible – how much can you realistically fit in without harming your physical or mental health (or adversely affecting other areas of your life such as your job, childcare, or your relationships?

Give yourself the freedom to change direction

As you work towards your goals, you might find that what you’re doing doesn’t fill you with the joy it once did. You need to assess whether you’ve just hit a difficult patch, or if a more drastic change of direction is required.

If you’re struggling but know you’ll come out the other side, don’t make any drastic decisions. Take some time out and realign your timeline and to-do list accordingly if possible. Get plenty of rest and allow yourself time to remember why your goals are important to you.

If what you’re feeling is a stronger sense of “I don’t want to do this any more,” listen to that and pay attention. Ambitions and priorities can change, and there’s no shame in that. Give yourself full permission to stop something if it isn’t bringing you joy. Go with your gut and change direction if that’s what you want to do.

Define a realistic time-frame

Estimate how long it’s likely to take to reach your goals. Remember: this is a guideline, not a deadline. Things will change. Some steps will take longer than you anticipated, some will take less. The purpose of your estimated goal accomplishment date is not to beat yourself up if things take longer, but to give you a framework to help you stay on track and monitor your progress.

Schedule, schedule, schedule!

I’m not going to tell you exactly how to do this, because different tools work for different people. I use a combination of a paper planner (complete with colourful pens and stickers) and several Trello boards for the main projects I’m working on. Other options include Google calendar, a wall-chart, or just good old fashioned to-do lists.

Whatever you use, the point is to plan your time effectively. Carve out appointments with yourself to work on your hobbies and goals and stick to them. I like to plan my week on Sunday nights so I know at least roughly what I’m going to be working on every day for the next week.

Build in downtime and rest

Rest is not a luxury. It’s essential. When you’re planning out your day or week, build in plenty of time for rest and relaxation. Whether that’s reading for pleasure, taking a bubble bath, crashing out in front of the TV, or just getting an early night, giving yourself chance to recharge will mean you can tackle your tasks and goals with more energy and focus.

Listen to your body and mind

Your body and your mind are wise. They know what you need, even if you haven’t consciously acknowledged it yourself. So pay attention. Are you showing up to your hobbies and interests with excitement and dedication, or do they feel more like a dreaded chore? Do you feel healthy and energised, or are you always tired or getting sick more often than usual?

Constant exhaustion, depression, a loss of joy in things you previously loved, significantly increased or decreased appetite, and a high level of stress are all signs of burnout. It’s much better to recognise them and take a break rather than keep pushing yourself until you can’t do it any more.

If you experience symptoms that are long-lasting or debilitating, see a doctor or mental health professional straight away.

Nurture your mental health

Taking care of your mental health looks different for everyone. What makes you feel content, present, and mentally well?

Some suggestions: get outside in nature as often as possible; get plenty of exercise; take any prescribed medication on time every day; eat healthy, regular meals; talk to a friend or family member; cuddle your pet; practice yoga, mindfulness, or breathing exercises; see a therapist.

It’s good to aim high and have big ambitions. Having something to strive for is wonderful, and there is a lot of satisfaction to be found in working towards a dream. But you’re human and you need to look after yourself too.

Remember the analogy: you can’t pour from an empty cup. Nurture yourself first, and you’ll have more to give as you reach for your goals.

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