Sunday, 1. December 2013 23:25 | Author:Jay Burton
In response to a question about taking it easy when he was long past retirement age, my grandfather said that he would rest when he was in the ground; he intended to stay busy as long as he was breathing. As I look back on it, his “busy” was very different from what we call “busy” in twenty-first century America. Our “busy” is more like controlled frenzy.
And sometimes we lose control of that frenzy or, at least, it seems that we are likely to. Even those of us who consider ourselves a bit laid back manage to put in hour upon hour at work, and, even though we may enjoy our work, it can be a bit much.
Then there are those of us who manage to take some time to play, but we play like we work—on a very tight, competitive schedule as we think about what’s next. Some play.
And sometimes the frenzy does get out of control. Not enough hours exist in a day to allow everything that we have planned to actually happen. What then? Stay up longer hours? Most of us are living on the edge of sleep deprivation as it is. Work faster? We risk doing a much less thorough job. Rush through our schedule? Our quality is sure to suffer. So what should we do?
Stop. It’s what any rational person would do. Unfortunately, most of us don’t think of doing that before it’s too late, and we forge ahead to do poor work, or, worse, put ourselves in a situation where our bodies rebel and demand that we shut down.
It’s what happened to me last weekend. Some of you who read the blog regularly may have noticed a missing post. It was because I stopped. Had to. I had had about four really rough weeks in a row with far too little sleep, capped by a weekend-long art show. During the show, I managed to crank out three draft blogs (it was not a well-attended show). I wish that I could say that I realized that I was overloading and running just a little too hard and had the good sense to slow down, but alas, no; I had to be smacked over the head.
When the show was over, my body closed down. I was numb. I not only didn’t want to function, I wasn’t sure that I could. Whether the draft blogs were any good or not, I have no idea, because I couldn’t even look at them. It was a terrible feeling, and it was non-productive. And productive is something that we tell ourselves that we must be—always.
Perhaps that “always” is the problem. I did stop for at least one evening, mostly because there was no other choice. As I roamed around the house avoiding doing anything more complex than loading the dishwasher, I thought that if I had had the foresight to have planned some down-time during those four ugly weeks, I might not have hit the wall.
But there was no time for that. Except, of course, there was. All I had to do is schedule it like I do everything else. The trick, of course, is to spend that time not being concerned about what is next, but to really stop and smell the roses, or prune the roses, or watch a movie, or read something, or whatever it is that will allow us to relax our minds for a few minutes and allow our creative batteries to charge. We are, in the end, biological critters who need some R&R once in a while. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does have to be real. And it does have to be.
So the lesson last week—for me at least—was to stop, before being stopped by body and brain. Taking a bit of down-time can, in the long run, make us not only a little healthier, but both more productive and creative as well.