I had coffee this morning with a friend whose project management abilities scare me. She’s so focused and organized that I often come away from our meetings feeling like a clueless beginner.
She recently made some adjustments in her work arrangements and is now operating out of her home office two-to-three days a week.
When we talked about her plans several months ago, everything looked great. She would go in to the “real” office a couple of days a week to collaborate with her teammates and participate in scheduled meetings, but the bulk of her time would be spent working from home. Minimal commute; maximum productivity.
Something has happened since those blissful “planning for the future” days, and she’s feeling overwhelmed. Not by the work per se; by the fact that her workdays…and the days she scheduled for personal activities… are blurring together with no downtime anywhere.
If it’s not “work-work,” it’s “household-related-work.” One piling on top of the other, day after endless day.
Now I’m probably not the best person to be weighing in on matters like this…I was online at least four hours a day while I was on vacation recently, checking email, updating my Facebook status, tweeting about God knows what, and writing a blog post (which prompted a comment from a former student/current friend).
But I felt like I needed to at least offer an alternative for her since it looked like she was in the fast lane heading for a meltdown. Nothing mind-boggling; just simple “been there, done that” reality.
“You need some ‘me time,'” said the wise counsel. “Take a day and go ‘play.’ Do fun things. Walk in the sunshine (if we ever have any), eat ice cream, and relax.”
“Congratulations, Kirk,” you mutter. “That’s a no-brainer for most of us, but it’s not going to work for your friend. She’s not wired that way.”
“Probably so,” I respond as I savor my tiramisu from Mike’s Pastry in Boston’s North End. “But it had to be said. She’s so focused on her work and her home projects that she’s losing her enthusiasm for both.”
I realized a long time ago that, as important as my work is and as much as I absolutely love what I do for a living, I have to take some “me” time to clear my head and reenergize.
Sometimes it’s as simple as a walk in the park. Other times it’s extended vacations during which the most strenuous thing I do is choose which pastry I want with my morning cappuccino.
But it’s “me” time. And, when I return from whatever I have chosen as the remedy for impending burnout, I am recharged and eager to get back into action.
To counter the unsaid but implied “It’s not that simple for those of us who are either unemployed or under-employed,” I respond thusly (love that word!): “Yes it is. In fact, it’s even more important that you do this. If you don’t, you’ll burn out even more quickly and lose the will to forge ahead with your job search.”
This sage advice is from one who once spent two years unemployed, living on paltry savings when the benefits ran out. Unemployment is no laughing matter, and it’s with you 24/7.
You can’t leave it on your desk back in the office…there is no office.
So you have to learn how to kick back and enjoy the moment…or the day. Trust me. You’ll feel a heck of a lot better afterwards, and you’ll dive back into whatever challenge you’re facing with renewed energy and determination.
“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.” – Herodotus, “Histories,” bk. II, ch. 173
(Note: My friend emailed me later in the day. After we parted company, she went home, slipped into some comfortable clothes, and spent the day wandering blissfully around town window-shopping. The upbeat tone of her note said it all…she took some badly-needed “me time.”)