Friday, May 28, 2010

Schedule Some Time Off

I sat down last night to write this blog post, but couldn't. I could not get my mind in the right frame, so to speak, to type out a few coherent paragraphs. After spending most of the day, every day, juggling emails and phone calls and paperwork and everything else it takes to run a small business day to day, along with parenting, household duties and attempting to have a social life; often by the end of a weekday I am burnt out. And it happens to everybody, in all walks of life - CEO, stay-at-home-parent, uni student - because our whole world is just constantly on the go, 24/7.

The other day I accidentally left my phone on it's charger and went out without it. And guess what? The world didn't end, nobody threatened to sue me because I hadn't returned their calls or texts, everybody I had arranged to meet throughout the day was at their designated place at the right time - even a lunch date we hadn't specifically arranged the logistics of, fell into place because we ran into each other anyway. Once I was over my initial shock of not being able to be contacted, I quite enjoyed myself. I wasn't trying to have a conversation with one person while texting another, and I was able to just enjoy being where I was and doing what I was doing, without being cyberally in a thousand places at once.

It may have been unscheduled time-out, but I finally understood the whole Scheduled Self-Maintenance thang everyone's been discussing lately. The idea is that you schedule in a day or a morning or 15mins a few times a week for just doing nothing. Just chillin', clearing your head and your space and, possibly, meditating with a notebook next to you. Ok, when I read that, I thought: nice for some. Some who don't have to work long hours to pay their bills or who don't have kids to chase after or who have a cleaning lady. I sneered a little bit at such an idealistic notion which no doubt would leave most of us feeling even more like a failure because on top of everything else we were meant to be doing and can't fit in, now we can't even fit in time off like we should.

But maybe it's not that hard. For example, right at this very minute, I'm typing this, listening to Mr discuss a new internet/phone plan, trying to make sure little Miss doesn't have a late afternoon nap and is occupied with something other than the telly, chatting to a friend on Facebook about her business idea, and trying to decide whether to start dinner soon or scrap that idea and get takeaways. There's at least 3 guilt-conscious things in that sentence right there (tv babysitter! non-organic, non-homecooked dinner! not communicating properly with one's partner/friends! Hmm, maybe it's 4.) Couldn't I just switch everything off, start and finish one thing at a time? Yes, but we're not conditioned to work like that. Multi-task or multi-fail!

So the only thing to do is be pro-active about it, and not in a skincare infomercial sense. Some people, all successful in their own right, work nonstop for 2 weeks, then have 2 weeks off. Others have one day a week of time-out. Even one morning a week can make a difference to your overall approach to pretty much everything, apparently. But how do you tell your work or school or family that you need to schedule this time in? For an awful lot of people, it's awfully difficult. It's a caring boss indeed who would work with you on scheduled self-maintenace - but a good boss will, 'cos a happy employee makes for happy employers. Not everyone is lucky enough to have family or close friends who are willing to look after your kids, nor is childcare an affordable option. Maybe, if you can't literally slot "time-out" into your diary, maybe just slot "slow-down" in there somewhere instead. Choose a "switch-off" time everyday to turn your computer and phone off, or stop with housework or those pesky daily duties, and then simply read, or play with your kids, or veg out in front of the telly.   

I used to work 7 days a week. It's only recently, and slowly, that I've trained myself not to turn my computer on over the weekend. And it's great. I actually read books, play in the park with my daughter, bake horribly sweet treats, even go shopping (for fun) while Daddy and Daughter spend some time together. Techincally a weekend is time-out anyway, but how many of us really use that time to switch off? Applying the same theory to week-days is another story, but I'm willing to give it a go. Are you?

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