Nik Spyratos

Swimming in all directions, ignoring the rope on your leg

I want to talk about doing too much in life. The metaphor I’ll use is swimming in all directions (and thus making progress in none). The added piece I want to talk about is a rope pulling in the other direction: work. Preface: This piece talks about my own experiences. I recognise that this can come across as “woe is me” or bragging, but that is not the intent.

Doing too much

If you’re like me, for a long time, you ignore what you do in work when you consider your life as a whole. When I look at all the activities and groups I’m in, work is an opaque block that I don’t count as what I do with my time. I feel like I’m doing less and I’m not productive"or helpful to others. So I put pressure on myself to do more and “pay back” my self-perceived societal debt. I’ve felt this way for ages.

What was the result? In the last 2 years, I’ve joined 6 different groups. 4 collaborative groups, joining others to run a tech meetup, and joined the trustees for my apartment building. Not all take up large amounts of time, but they sure take up mental space!

In the last year I’ve also had a desire to start building side projects (I haven’t yet, but it’s been top of mind). Let’s also not forget taking care of physical & mental health, chores, rest and leisure time!

So let’s take a look into this opaque work block. Turns out, in the last 5 months I almost burned out while leading a project. And I mentored a junior developer for 4 months. Then I entered a technical leadership role.

That’s quite a lot of things now. To recap:

The result is I’m swimming in many directions instead of one and mentally shutting off each day. Doing average in 10 areas instead of doing well in 5. Some of us might want this, but having done it for a while now, I no longer want to. I want to cut back. I want to do better at my core things than be mediocre at all others.

Swim with the pulling force

This means recognising the impact of my work and the input into it. For most of us, our job takes 1/3 of 5 days, and often more if you factor in recovery time from it. This means roughly 25-30% of every week is being used to work. This can become a time-wasting sacrifice to support a lifestyle. This happens for two main reasons:

  1. Your job is completely unrelated to any of your life goals.
  2. You don’t factor your work into how you spend your time.

One solution is to just cut the rope. Quit your job and do your own thing (freelance, start a business, move to a cabin in the woods). There’s tons of writing on this. The more interesting option to me is to instead tie the rope around your arm - swim with the pulling force and use it as a booster.

The first thing to do before swimming with the pulling force is to know it’s even there! For me, this means taking time to recognise how the work I’m doing has an impact on both me and my colleagues (hopefully for the better). While I risked burnout in a project this year, it was still an experience I could learn from. I now have an opportunity as tech lead to be a force multiplier for the work of others rather than just focusing on my own.

In short: My work isn’t completely separated from everything I do. I both learn and influence it.

The second thing is to ensure the force is going in a direction you want. In other words your job relates to your goals in some way and helps you on your journey to them. This can be as simple as getting paid enough to support yourself while you pursue other things.


This post isn’t to strategise on how to get a job that works for your life. That’s up to you. What this is about is seeing your position right now, so that you can figure out the path to your destination. The same goes for me.

I have to be honest here. This entire post is actually a lesson I’m re-learning: I need to heavily prioritise what matters to me, everything else be damned. This is the central thesis of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. The lessons are always more apparent when they’re experienced.

TL;DR: Chill. Do less if you’re unnecessarily busy. As long what you do aligns with your goals, keep on trucking.

If you enjoyed this, follow, subscribe, yadda yadda. I write stuff from time to time.

#career #life #lifestyle #self improvement #work