I don’t know about you, but I grew up with the image of the hard-working career person as someone who only sleeps five hours a night, starts work at 5 in the morning, and continues late into the evening—someone who’s always working, even during “recreational” time: golfing, fishing, socializing at the bar, attending conferences. It seemed like a contest of who could have the most packed schedule, my favorite example being going to a trade show and never actually seeing the show because back-to-back meetings were scheduled for the entire time.
So, for a long time I felt a little bit like a failure. I need at least eight hours of sleep, preferably nine. And with so many kids for so many years, I guiltily carved out time for them (while often keeping one eye on my computer or, more recently, my phone). And if I went to a trade show, I would actually walk the floor, aisle by aisle. And if I golfed (which I do a bit) or fished (which I enjoy), I’d do it either alone or with my kids. Honestly, the last thing I want to do when I am out on a golf course or in a fishing boat is talk about work, or “network.”
Sometimes, when I’m being cynical, I think our culture’s obsession with work is really a fear of being alone—fear of the loneliness that comes from not, at every moment, being connected to someone else. That’s what I think when I walk down a city street and see people on their phones.
Sometimes, when I’m thinking historically, I realize that we are still products of our puritanical, Calvinistic suffer-and-work-or-else-you-are-worthless roots.
Regardless of where it comes from or why we all suffer a little bit from our ambitiousness, I do think things are changing. But like all things that change, we have to have the courage to change ourselves and to talk about it with others. So here I go:
It’s OK to not be busy all the time! (She says as she writes a blog on her day “off”).
It’s OK and, in fact, necessary to build time into your schedule and your life to recover. Everyone has his or her own rhythm, and it’s your job to find what works best for you. It’s as much about turning off the voices in your head that call you a slacker for chillaxing as it is about turning off your phone on a weekend.
Any good athlete knows you can’t perform your best without managing your body’s rhythms of rest and recovery after times of exertion. It’s the same for all the rest of us worker bees.
But here is what I really want to say: It’s in those resting moments that we grow the most, that we learn the most, and that we actually become the most valuable to others and our work. It’s why all the best ideas happen in the shower—because we’re not really thinking, we’re feeling, being, and just enjoying the experience of hot water cleansing our skin.
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen those “workaholics” who never step outside of their work mode actually make themselves less productive/useful because they lose touch with what’s really happening with the rest of the world. I’ve often joked that shopping is “market research,” but it’s true. When you live a full life and open yourself up to new experiences and give yourself permission to recover and relax, everything and everyone benefits.
So take your vacation days. Take your weekends off. Let yourself be bored. Walk somewhere without talking to anyone. Go fishing. Play golf alone. Pay attention to everything and nothing. Don’t give a sh*# about what anyone else thinks. Think for yourself. Refuse to suffer unnecessarily. You don’t need my permission. You don’t need anyone else’s permission. Only you can give yourself permission to recover.
But if you are waiting for permission from someone else, consider it granted!
I agree 100%. No matter how hard I had to work in my working years, I always made time for Fun, Friends and Foolishness. It made work easier to go back to on Monday. It made friends for life. It made me able to keep working 100% until the day I turned 65 and I retired on that very day, even though it came in the middle of the week. And once I retired after over 40 years of hard work, I said, “I’ll never work again!” And I haven’t. I found my true vocation in life: “to be retired”! And I’ve enjoyed every minute of retirement and never looked back. Yes, work is necessary but not to work forever and not to work to death, and not to work so that we forget to enjoy Life in the present moment. I gave myself permission to enjoy my life during work, and now after work, permission is still being granted. Thanks, Maria!!
I can’t tell you how often I do, and have done this. Downtime is warranted! Weekends are definitely mine. Some weekends I don’t even change out of my night clothes, really! When the weather is better, as it is starting to be, I will start getting out more. I love to wander alone, and once in awhile, with another person or my doggy. I am by nature, a loner. Having people around me most times is something that I don’t need. I am happy with myself. Mornings, I get up and have a quiet hour to myself, drink my tea, look over the landscape and be calm before starting the day, otherwise I will be frazzled the whole day.
I too, need at least nine hours of sleep in order to feel well, eight will also do. I try not to stress about things, because as we all know, “everything will be fine.” So, enjoy life and work in measured spoonful. It’ll make things a lot easier to swallow.
Yeah, I agree. I was “work-pyscho” in my younger years. I’m a much better mother for putting down work and being a Mom when my kids or husband are around. My daughters remember ‘the old me’ and talk about how Daddy had to raise them because I was always working. I have learned a lot more, particularly about love, when I discovered that work would still be there tomorrow. Love is all there is after all!
Thanks for taking your day “off” to write this blog, Maria!
I have never commented on an editorial before, but I felt compelled to offer a BRAVO for this column. I know how easy it is to work so hard on a completely worthwhile cause that you can lose sight of your health?