Week 42 – Getting Out of a Vicious Circle

As I started this post, I looked up the definition of vicious circle to make sure I was properly describing how I feel today.

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As I started this post, I looked up the definition of vicious circle to make sure I was properly describing how I feel today – “A vicious circle (or cycle) is a complex chain of events that reinforces itself through a feedback loop, with detrimental results”

I think that captures it – I am caught in a cycle of getting frustrated that everything takes longer than I had planned, then I get angry for having too many things to do, which means I am unhappy.

My moment of clarity came as I stood in a welcome meeting for new members at my co-working space. I had a moment to catch up with someone who started at the same time as me, and we talked about the stress we are under.

Even as a I spoke I could feel the stress coming from me, as I described all the calls on my time from so many different sources. Describing it to others is a quick way to realise that what is happening is not what we want – we know we sound unhappy as we talk.

This was a great wake-up call, as I had spent the weekend talking with my partner about changes I need to make. Knowing what I know about neuroscience, I am going to use the “bring the future into the present” technique. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

Step 1

Decide on a timeframe for your future self – the easiest one to pick is this time next year, as it is easy to imagine, and it is not so far away that it feels totally disconnected from your current circumstances.

Step 2

Describe your ideal day – by forcing yourself to look only at one day of your life, and not every aspect of your work, you can find the trends and themes that you need to fix.

Step 3

Ask yourself what changes you need to make to achieve this ideal day:

  • What do you need to stop doing/start doing
  • Who do you need to spend less time with/more time with
  • How do you do your work – more automation; more quiet periods of concentration; more ideas sharing and support from others?

Step 4

Prioritise these ideas – not based on importance, but on how easy they are to do. After all, they are all important in achieving your ideal day, but the problem is you are so busy in the “here and now” you don’t have time to sort things out.

You need to make each step very small, and if you cannot find a top priority issue because they are all too big and you cannot imagine getting started on any of them, go through each of them and challenge yourself to break them into at least 3 tasks – start, middle and end.


It is working for me – it has led to some uncomfortable conversations as there were a few big responsibilities in my workload that needed negotiation and compromise to remove, and a few small things I could start doing immediately – including using a software tool to create a visual of all my work in progress. This has been a quick win, because it is so much easier to find and what I am doing – and my team can see it too so I don’t have to keep emailing updates to everyone. I hope these ideas are useful for you. Have a look at previous articles in this series for more inspiration.