One thing I’ve had a major problem with in recent
months years is that I can’t “settle”. Being self-employed means I’m out of the regular routine and structure of work, and being a stay-at-home parent means basically either working or being ‘on call’ 24/7. Finding a balance between work and relaxation can be almost impossible. Life can sometimes seem like a “Where’s Wally?” scene (or Waldo, if you’re Stateside), where I’m trying to find one small speck of smiling face amongst a very busy and crowded backdrop.
I’m trying to find “me”. Not the “mother” me, or the “blogger” me, or the “lawyer” me, or the “wife” me… Just me.
It’s not that I don’t have time for it (because we all have the same 24 hours), but it’s that I don’t make time for it. And that’s a mistake, and something I want to change.
It’s OK to have different priorities at different times in your life. Some periods will naturally be busier than others, and some sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. When my daughter was an infant, my priorities when I wasn’t looking after her were eating, showering, and sleeping (not necessarily in that order). But she’s older now (and mercifully no longer waking for night feeds), so I need to shift the focus back to me a little more, and beyond my very basic needs.
My main problem is that I’m a perfectionist, often resulting in paralysis or extreme procrastination. But my desire to produce something incredible, as well as being a bit of a productivity nut, makes it extremely difficult to switch off or to feel that downtime is valuable and worthwhile and not just a waste of time. I find it almost impossible to silence the voice in my head that says, “But you could be doing something else instead.” If I’m watching TV, I’m thinking, “I should be writing.” If I’ve got the house to myself, I’m thinking, “I should be recording.” If I’m reading a book, I’m thinking, “I should be drafting the outline to my own.” And I rarely watch films or play video games because my brain tells me they’ll take up too much time.
Having a job you love and are passionate about can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it means that it doesn’t always feel like such a slog, but it can also blur the lines between ‘work’ and ‘hobby’, so that I’m not “just writing” anymore, I’m writing a blog post, or drafting an outline, or scripting a video… The constant flip-flopping in my head means I’m not seeing the full benefit because I’m not allowing my brain to completely disengage from work for a while.
When I realised this, my initial idea for downtime was to catch up on YouTube subscriptions or online articles I’d saved. But “catch up” became the operative phrase, and I still felt like I was working because I was still doing something just to tick it off a list. I was still trying to practice active productivity, which was inevitably going to lead to burnout.
It was only when I wrote my post about how getting your shit together isn’t about doing more, but being more, that it finally hit me. (See, this blog is just as much for me as it is for you.) What I really need is passive productivity, where I can clock off from work, but keep my brain stimulated and entertained. Where I’m just me.
The world won’t stop turning because I crack open a good book. And my daughter won’t sleep any less soundly because I break out the popcorn and hit ‘play’ on the latest blockbuster. The website won’t disappear overnight because I decide to go window-shopping (though my finances might if I decide to go *actual* shopping. 😉 )
As a parent and a writer, I can’t work to rigid routines and timelines. I need flexibility and fluidity. I need space to allow things to grow and develop and evolve. I need time to deal with the unexpected, like a sudden bolt of inspiration for a blog post… or cleaning porridge off the floor and walls.
There are always blog posts to be written, videos to be edited, social networks to be updated, topics to be researched, ideas to be brainstormed, pictures and thumbnails to be designed… BUT I need my brain to know that it’s OK for that to be the case, and that taking an hour off to watch a documentary isn’t a disaster.
So I’m making a commitment to relaxation. I’m making a commitment to sit down regularly to do something completely unrelated to work. I’m making a commitment to allow my brain to decompress for a bit every day. I’m making a commitment to satisfy my craving for proper downtime, so that I can return to my work more focused and energised. I’m making a commitment to be “just me”.
Care to join me? 🙂