The “I Want To Do It All” Syndrome

Last night I finished up a work deadline with a huge sigh of relief and anticipation – relief, because I’ve been busier than normal for this time of year this past month and anticipation because my next deadline isn’t until May (celebration time!).

But this morning I found myself doing some navel-gazing. Found lots of fluff, so to speak. The one big thing that’s been on my mind is this:

Why am I always bursting with ideas but never DOING much of anything with them?

You see, this is what my brain looks like every single second of the day:

A jumble of thoughts

That’s just each second. Imagine all those thoughts wiped out and replaced by an entire slew of new ones, and you’ll have a good idea of my thought stream throughout the day. (The image of my brain drunk on ideas is courtesy of doodling on the awesome, free Paper by Fifty Three  iPad app, by the way.)

I love coming up with ideas. I love playing with ideas, growing them, becoming very excited by them.

But the problem is, you wouldn’t know this to look at DONE side of my to-do/to-try list.

I get awfully mired in “non-doing”.

This is a serious, cyclical problem for me. I have a slow season every year work-wise (you’re looking at it right now) and really, that should be the perfect time for me to make all my ideas come alive. There are books to be written, posts to be blogged, artsy stuff to try out, new skills to be learned, blogs to be created, social media sites to investigate, apps to test out, information to be learned.

Why am I not doing any of these things?

So I was doing some serious soul searching this morning.

And then the answer came to me.

I’m getting overwhelmed with my ideas.

It happens all the time with my writing. I’ll be in the middle of a great story, when out of the blue, a character for another different, great story will come to me. And suddenly I’m torn.

Which do I work on now?

It’s clear to me now that I do this with everything, not just my writing. My enthusiasm for a new idea knows no bounds, but when you multiply that by ten or a hundred (usually a hundred), It’s like I suddenly run into a force field that reduces me to non-doingness. I’ll have a 101 things on my I-want-to-do list (this is all stuff I want to do, not things I’m trying to avoid doing) – and I’ll be at a total loss.

Basically, this is usually what I end up doing:


And, mind you, I think I do it awfully well.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Plants vs. Zombies. It’s my latest addiction and I find it to be a real stress reliever.

It’s just that I’m not really stressed these days. Except by the fact that I’m NOT DOING the things I want to do.

So yes, I have the “I Want To Do It All” syndrome. And it’s really bogging me down.

I’ve always found the best way to tackle problems is to just ask the Universe for an answer.

Universe? I’m asking! I’m even blogging about my asking! Please, send me an answer quickly. And if you could give me an answer that’s about a realistic way to actually do all the stuff I want to do, and not just tell me to pick one thing and stick to it until it’s done (aka “the stock answer”), that would be really fabulous …

Do you suffer from the “I Want To Do It All” syndrome too? Have you got any advice on how to cope?

14 thoughts on “The “I Want To Do It All” Syndrome

  1. M.C. Sommers

    I don’t feel like I’m in a position to give advice because this is a constant struggle for me as well. However, I find two things that help. First, I schedule time where I focus on one idea. If other things pop into my mind during that time, I write them down but don’t allow myself to get distracted by them. The other thing that helps is to set deadlines for myself. It’s not easy to enforce them, but at least it makes me try to get something done rather than just focusing on brainstorming all the time.

    And if I keep having a thought or an idea but never act on it, sometimes I realize that means it might just be an ok idea and I need to let it go and focus on the great ideas instead.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      I really like the idea of setting myself deadlines. My main problem has always been, I’ve always been very good with work deadlines, but not very good with self-imposed deadlines. There must be some way to deal with that resistance on my part!

  2. rhapsodyinbooks

    I get overwhelmed not just with ideas but with “too much stimulation.” sort of an aadd kind of thing. So I practice avoidance also. Not so great. I’ll be checking back though to see if anyone has any better ideas! :–)

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      I’m going to try scheduling time for specific things, using a timer, and maybe implementing more of a structure for the things I really want to do. I’ll keep you posted!

  3. heidenkind

    If I need to get anything not work-related done, I have to schedule a short amount of time for it. For example, with writing, I write for an hour every day on It’s great because I can’t stop to check twitter, do research (which is my Achilles heel when it comes to getting anything done with writing), or think, I just need to write write write. You don’t have to start with an hour, either, you can begin with like 10 or 15 minutes.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      I really like this idea of setting aside an amount of time for something. I don’t think Write or Die would work for me, but you’ve given me a great idea. I might try using a timer for certain to-dos, like reading Google Reader, researching or blog commenting. Those activities have a tendency to swallow up huge chunks of time, so then I end up avoiding them because I know I’ll end up spending more time than I’d planned on them. But maybe not if I use a timer! Thanks, Tasha!

  4. Joy Weese Moll

    Book Recommendation: Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher. Sher calls people like us “scanners” and has a number of ways to cope and, even more, to appreciate ourselves for what we are!

    One of the things I get obsessed about is new ways to organize things — I can spend more time developing an organizational scheme for my to do list than actually doing the items on it! So, I hesitate to recommend my latest scheme, but I’m getting a kick out of The Secret Weapon which combines the book Getting Things Done by David Allen and Evernote software. There’s a fun video on Life Hacker about it:
    And a link to more videos if you decide you want to implement it.

    Finally, from my personal experience, I find it takes more structure to get me to do something than I can possibly imagine at the outset. I learned this losing weight. I’m applying it, now, to my writing. To write, I had to choose a specific big project among the many that I might do, I have to be taking on-line writing classes so that I have deadlines, AND I need a twice weekly writing “date” with a friend. The date is in quotes because she’s in Texas and I’m in Missouri. But we meet two times a week for four hours at our respective local coffee houses and check-in hourly to keep ourselves on track. It’s working, but it took me several months to figure out that I would need that much support and structure to do something that I claim that I want to do.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      Thanks for the great ideas, Joy. I haven’t read Refuse to Choose – I’m adding it to my library list right now.

      I think we’re very similar when it comes to the organizational aspect of things – I came across The Secret Weapon a few weeks ago and guess what was the first thing I did after watching the videos? I organized all my Evernote tags :) It was perfect, but then I kept adding new tags and haven’t gone in to re-organize so it’s kind of a mess again.

      I wonder if my problem might be needing more support and structure for my writing too … I know what’s worked for me in the past is to just say, I’m going to write 20 minutes a day. That was a sort of structure that seemed to be helpful. My main problem right now is with the starting – developing a new habit. I’d better get going with reading that habit book you and I were chatting about on Goodreads!

  5. Beth F

    I have the same problem. One big issue is that I get started on new thought, idea, task, skill and *wham* work comes into the house and that new thing is put aside. Next lull in my work? I’m onto a new idea and the old idea just kind of sits there.

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      This is it exactly for me! Work tends to really mess the rest of my to-do/ideas list up. But what I can’t quite figure out is why, when work is slower than normal, I get all caught up in the ideas but not in the doing.

  6. Kaylin

    Yep that’s me too, including the Plants Vs. Zombies! When I beat that game I moved on to Bubble Spinner tho – endless levels = endless procrastination. Too many ideas discourage me from starting any of them in too much depth lest I leave the others to be forgotten, so I guess my only advice is to have as your mantra the saying “never put off til tomorrow what you can do today”, which has helped me get started on some of the projects.

  7. Care

    aw crap, I had a very long comment typed here and hit some wrong buttons and deleted most of it. Sigh. I have this affliction. I can sit at my computer and play sudoku and enjoy time passing by or decide to look at my to do list and get so freaking overwhelmed and depressed that I do nothing or frantically rush around and try to do something anything and just want to sit and cry.
    I was hoping that my letter-a-day goal would give me focus and I’m enjoying it but. I can’t say I have developed any focus skills…
    I have SO MUCH to do today! I can’t sit here and blog!!! Grrrrrr

  8. Steve Kubien

    Why, oh why has it been so long since my last visit to the Land Of MsBookish? Why Universe?!?!

    Methinks our minds are very similar in some ways. I consider myself incredibly scattered when it comes to ideas. Couple that with being a gold medalist at the World Procrastination Championships and it is clear why I don’t get a lot of stuff done.

    (I’m not really a gold medalist at the WPG’s but I will be, eventually…when I get arou……).


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