Do you ever find yourself on a client call, while simultaneously organizing basketball practice, brainstorming a blog post and daydreaming about lunch? You might be a slasher in need of some serious self-defense.
The lifestyle of a slasher – a term popularized by Marci Alboher in her book One Person/Multiple Careers – can be invigorating. As a guest lecturer / researcher / translator / web designer / writer, I love playing many roles and connecting with people from many industries and countries.
But it can also be stressful. When you work with people who have committed a larger part of their own “pie” to a certain task, sometimes they demand more than you have to give. Deadlines can overlap. Weekends can disappear. And the slashes that let you use your diverse skills and interests can become slashes that slice into your sanity, stability and mental health.
The word “ninja” gets used a lot in discussions about working independently – and it makes complete sense. To successfully sustain a slasher lifestyle, you must take self-defense seriously, just like a martial arts pro. But here, self-defense doesn’t mean preparing for physical attacks. It means building and maintaining a strong core, to give you the agility and flexibility to rise to the slasher challenge.
Give these slasher self-defense techniques a try:
Create a day-righting ritual
As someone who might work on several projects in one day, how do you start your morning on the right foot?
Try “day-righting,” a term coined by Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone. He says it’s “The 15-Minute Secret for Individual Effectiveness:”
Almost all of you, I’m willing to bet, have a “morning ritual.” But how many of you have created one by design? This is so important for individual effectiveness, for everyone but especially for entrepreneurs who work independently or at home.
I first became aware of this idea when interviewing a pair of salesman for Who’s Got Your Back. Together, they did an early morning gym session followed by a brainstorm, a process they called “day-righting.” After about a month of this routine, the team told me they saw dramatic improvements in their business and their lives.
Ferrazzi goes on to suggest exercise, journaling, meditation and breathing as day-righting options.
My day-righting ritual has consisted of coffee and newspaper reading with my partner, followed by a quick gym workout, a hearty home-cooked breakfast, and then going into the office to start the workday. In the days when I’ve followed at least part of this ritual, I’ve been able to balance my slashes. The days when I’ve skipped the newspaper, workout and breakfast to immediately sit down in front of my computer, a few hours later I realize that my neck is sore and I’ve been clicking around on the computer without getting much done.
Be conscious of stressors in your environment
Is your office filled with the sounds of colleagues talking on the phone, other people’s music, or buses and honking outside? Even low-level noise has a subtle but insidious effect on our health and well-being. The best solutions can be the simplest: earplugs, headphones, and, if possible, choosing a quieter place to work.
Do one thing at a time
If you’re a surgeon / violinist, you obviously cannot pursue both slashes at the same time (at least not if you want to have any success at either!) But if you’re an event coordinator / editor, the distinction between might be less obvious.
When your slashes involve the same tools, you might find yourself trying to reserve a room and edit a blog post at the same time, perhaps while also reading the news and chatting with a friend. This makes each task take longer, and you’re more likely to make mistakes.
There are dozens of tools to help. For writing, I like OmmWriter, Microsoft Word’s Full Screen mode, and Gmail pop-outs, which let me write an email without having to look at all my other emails or all my friends who might want to chat.
The main reason to pursue a slasher lifestyle is to do what you love. But if you’re overwhelmed with commitments, it’s time to scale back. Once a week or so, perhaps as part of your day-righting ritual, make a list of your priorities and consider whether the way you have been spending your time fits with those priorities. There will always be more events and projects than you can possibly commit yourself to. Learning to say no is perhaps the most important self-defense tactic of all.
What about you? What self-defense tactics work best for your slasher lifestyle?