As someone trying to take writing seriously with the little spare time I have outside of work and family, as someone just trying to live more deliberately and intentionally in general, and as (yes) a bipolar person whose mania frequently manifests as taking on too much and then crashing and burning, I’ve worked for over a year to develop a flowchart that will help me figure out when I should say “no” and when I should say “yes” to things. It’s a kind of artificial boundary machine, a magic 8 ball–an algorithm or formula into which I can plug unexpected opportunities, invitations, and the chaos of day-to-day stimulus and get a clear answer yes or no.
It’s taken me awhile, but I feel I’ve finally nailed all the right questions. An earlier version I drafted didn’t work–I had this chart, but still found I was repeatedly overstepping my own boundaries, saying yes to stuff when I knew I shouldn’t, then doing it anyway and doing damage to myself. Turning point was being able to bring to fuller consciousness that what drives much of my compulsive doing–especially when it comes to community work–is the feeling that I must help or that it would be wrong not to help. I had to be able to put this feeling into words before I could recognize it as an obstacle to living more purposefully, and I had to recognize it as an obstacle before I could figure out what question would allow me to sidestep it. When I could do that, I was able to develop a flowchart that feels like it intervenes at all the right pressure points.
I feel a little silly that I even have to do something like this, but, well, here I am. Thought it might be of some use to others: