Whether a person is training for The Tour du France or their first 5K, a good trainer will tell you one of the most important things to remember is to rest and recover. Yes, rest. Not killing yourself every day by running around but taking a day off. Resting. Healing. Something we Americans aren’t very good at doing.
I was reading in one of the many trivia books we have in our bathroom that during the 1800’s it was common to cite “exhaustion” on a male’s death certificate to indicate the man was admired and displayed society’s value of a hard work ethic. Of course, people in the lower classes who actually did work themselves to death were listed as “lacking fortitude”.
I grew up in a Protestant work environment and my husband often jokes I have character coming out of places where character should not be leaking. I struggle with “down time” because I feel like I should be productive creative ALL the time. Last week, I read something Ira Glass had written about how hard you have to work when you are just starting out and I realized I needed to make some changes. I can’t get anything done if I’m sitting on the couch thinking about how unproductive I am, but I can’t be productive when I don’t have any down time. So, I came up with a plan and started on my path toward the work/relaxation balance.
This is how I did it:
I set daily intentions. Each day when I got home from work I took a little time to chat with my husband, eat dinner and enjoy a glass of wine. After dinner when I was feeling more grounded, I sat down in front of my computer and before I even clicked on the Firefox icon, would state my intention. I would choose one thing in the pile of stuff I have to get done and work on it. Write for an hour, work on a chapter, edit and make notes on a book idea. When I was done I would either keep going or stop and do something else.
I set work days. Knowing that I get absolutely nothing done on Fridays, I set a certain amount of days of the week I would work. I have in the past, planned what I am going to do each day in advance but I always end up doing something else. Knowing that I had to get a certain amount of work done by Friday was helpful and kept me focused.
I enjoyed my down time. I made a decision early on in the week that not only did I deserve down time but I was going to enjoy it. When I was done with my projects for the evening, I was DONE. I didn’t keep slogging and stay up too late, I stopped. I read, I watched Project Runway, I did a little yoga. It felt really good. On the days I didn’t do much of anything (Saturday) I enjoyed my time and didn’t beat myself for not being productive. Later in the evening when I had an idea for a project, I didn’t feel bad about working on my “day off.”
Like most people, I used to go, go, go until I got sick or my body was run down. Finding this balance is still a work in progress for me but my Inner Lutheran is a little quieter and I’m enjoying the process a little more. What about you? How do you find the balance between work and play?