I am writing this while battling a cold and flu. It is mild, and I am not so sick that I need to go to a doctor, but sick enough to derail me from working or functioning at anything other than a slow pace. Not that there is ever a good time to fall sick, but now is a particularly bad time, as I have deadlines and owe work to people at the end of the week. As a result, I am wracked with guilt, trying unsuccessfully to work even though I feel like crap and just want to crawl into bed and stay there, and am worried that my work won’t be any good because basically my brain has gone to sleep.
And only because I am sick and unable to work and this is affecting my productivity, I realize how important it is to look after one’s health before one falls sick. Cliched I know, but still true.
Lately I have been obsessed with productivity and efficiency and lists - partly because I really enjoy that kind of thing and partly because I have a lot more to do than before and need to find a way to juggle it all. Having more work and more opportunities is always a good thing, but then again, we aren’t meant to be machines, and need to schedule time for maintenance. Despite knowing all this intellectually, I didn’t follow through practically. I keep skimping on workouts, squeezing in a couple of walks only under duress, even though I immediately felt better after each one. I kept promising that I would eat better, and then promptly skipped the salad and fruit smoothies for food that felt good in the moment, reducing my stress or giving me an artificial sugar or caffeine high so I could go back to work re-charged. I kept telling myself that at the end of the week, or just after this project, I would focus more on my health. I would take the time to eat right, I would exercise more. And before I could make good on these promises, I fell ill. And now I am taking the time to make soups and buy fruit, but it’s like the cliche of shutting the barn door after the horse escaped.
We all know this - our bodies need maintenance. We need to take care of our health. But we sacrifice the currency of good health in the short term for more productivity, or so we think at any rate. We send more emails, do more busy work, execute on projects we already agreed to. But at what cost? Do we tell the car that now is not a good time to stop for gas when its running low? Why do we perform the same gamble with our bodies?
I think that taking the time to reset helps us gain more than just energy and better health. I think that pausing and reflecting, building the time for renewal also lets us evaluate - are all the things on my plate truly necessary or am I running around in circles? How can I accomplish more while doing less in certain areas? Where has inefficiency crept in? Asking these questions might actually allow us to get more done while being less stressed and having more down time. After all its the results we achieve that matter, not whether we maintained an empty inbox.
I’m still struggling to implement a lot of these lessons myself. I have been looking at my to-do list, and as each new project comes along, instead of wondering what I can bump off or downgrade in importance to include it, I try to see how many more hours I can work to get it all done. The fact is that there are finite hours in the day and there are limits to my energy, especially if I don’t take adequate steps to replenish it. It is more productive to be healthy, to walk more, to buy flowers or light a scented candle or watch the sunset. The work will still be here when we get back, and maybe we can look at it from a completely different perspective.