Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Shifting Gears

Sometimes, I can tend toward workaholism. Although I try to be laid back and flexible, there are times when things pile up and I'm afraid to step away. The drive to accomplish is like a constant hum in my head and when I step back or take a break it keeps humming, chastising.

Lately, though, circumstances have made breaks inevitable. I've had to step away to tend to more pressing matters, taking whole days away from all of those things I think I should be doing. Sometimes, I can silence the hum; other days I need to appease it with small snacks from my to-do list.

A funny thing has happened, though. It's not a revelation, exactly, just something that I lose sight of when the hum takes over.

When I step away -- not just for a few minutes or a few hours, but an entire day -- I come back re-energized. Strangely enough, this is true even for tasks I don't relish doing. Pressured by the missed time, I procrastinate less and, even better, stay focused longer.

This is not novel information. When I teach child development, we often discuss the importance of recess -- that wonderful thing we all took for granted in elementary school that gave us both a physical and a psychological break from the pressing matters of reading and writing and arithmetic. Parents and psychologists know kids need this, yet we somehow think we are immune, as if there's some magic that happens that allows adults to power through despite exhaustion, lack of focus and lack of interest.

There isn't.

I wish I could remember this more often. I wish it didn't take more pressing matters to silence the hum that tells me I'm not doing enough, not working hard enough.

I suspect, that, like so many other matters of organization and time management, it's a process. I need to do it often enough to experience its benefits on a regular basis so that I'm convinced that even wasting time is a good thing. I need to become as intentional about down time as I am about work time.

Maybe -- just maybe -- it even needs to make it onto my Big 3 some days. What, after all, is more important than having the energy to do the things that matter?

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