I am an Achiever. If you’ve ever taken the Enneagram personality test, then you might be familiar with the term. I’m what you’d call a Type 3. I’m success-oriented, driven, ambitious, and love to set goals just so I can crush them within a certain time frame. In short, I’m a workaholic. I revel in the fact I get to run my own business and watch it succeed. There’s not a single goal too big that I don’t feel like I can’t reach, and I’ve never really let myself down. Not a bad thing, right?
You see, in 2019 alone I worked for ten months straight (nearly every single day) without taking a break, without pausing to breathe, and without letting myself slow down for more than a day at a time. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I took a vacation. I was 100% committed to living up to my theme word of the year (elevate), and I wasn’t going to stop for anyone. Sound familiar?
But there’s a downside of loving the work you do so much it can actually become harmful. First, if I don’t feel productive every day I sit down at my laptop, I basically feel worthless, which messes with my moods and health. My self-worth becomes involved, the fear of failure digs in deep, and I start comparing myself to other authors. Second, I will run my body into the ground in order to accomplish my next goal because I literally can’t detach myself from my work. I’d much rather be at my desk working on my passion than being with my kids a lot of the time. Writing is an obsession I’ve relied on to help me through trauma, depression, and utilized to ease stress. It’s part of me.
It’s also the thing that’s hurting me the most.
There came a point in back-to-back-to-back deadlines my physical, mental, and emotional self decided if I wasn’t going to get some rest, it was going to make me take a break. That happened right about the time I’d signed a contract for Harlequin Intrigue for their first ever continuity the beginning of 2019, and I couldn’t write a single word for the better part of two weeks. And the words I forced myself to write? My critique partner hated every single one of them and suggested I start over.
I had to do something. I couldn’t stop writing because of contractual obligations, but the burnout creeping in was only getting worse the harder I pushed myself. So I took the advice of one of the female entrepreneurs I follow, and looked for ways to include more rest into my routine, including scheduling an actual vacation. Yup. I literally had to schedule a vacation in my work planner and promise myself not to work on the days I’d outlined.
That’s when the magic happened. There is an actual argument rest can make us more creative and productive, but it takes practice like any other skill. Here are the ways I ensured rest would be part of my routine from now on.
Step 1: Planning Active Restful Activities
I love a good bubble bath, but considering I live with two tiny sociopaths who climb in the tub with me every time I try to get a few hot minutes to myself, they haven’t really been a great way to relax. When you think about rest, you might immediately start listing passive activities such as catching up on your next Netflix binge, napping, or a great bubble bath. Instead, studies show active rest can be more restful than passive.
Activities like taking a walk can clear your head, practicing a hobby can reignite your creative side, and exercising keeps your body and mind at peak performance. All of these things can help you recover a lot faster from burnout than falling into bed for days at a time, which I also like to do. So just as I had to schedule a vacation into my planner, I made a list of activities (most non-work related) that I could enjoy without challenging my need to be productive. I had one week off, and for the first time in a long time, I was actually looking forward to it.
Here’s my list:
• Get my master bathroom cabinets ready for paint
• Decorate for Halloween
• Finish that book I’ve been reading for three months
• Planned out my writing schedule for 2020 (I know, this was work related, but I get excited about setting goals)
• Move my body for 30 minutes a day
• Eat nutritionally dense meals
• Make 8-9 hours a sleep a priority
Step 2: Scheduling One Day off a Week
It doesn’t seem like much, and honestly, it took a couple weeks to stick to my promise to commit, but scheduling one day off a week has made a huge difference in my mental and emotional health over the last month.
For starters, it was nice waking up for the day (my chosen day was Sunday) and not automatically think of all the tasks I needed to complete that day. With my toddler fighting naps the past few months, my work time is growing shorter and shorter every day it seems, so I immediately start listing everything that I can realistically get done in that timeframe the second I open my eyes. I’m usually jonesing to get started, but on Sundays, I found myself pausing and just being able to breathe. There was no sense of rushing, no snapping at my kids to go play so I could get in just a few more minutes of work. I actually felt at peace for the first time in months.
On Sundays, I choose to give into passive rest, whereas during the week (after I’m finished with my work for the day), I practice active rest. This one day a week, I read the nearest paperback I can get my hands on so I’m not on my phone, I push my kids off on my husband to get that bubble bath alone, and I choose to take a nap while my toddler is napping. At the end of the day, I feel refreshed and ready for the upcoming insanity of the week.
Step 3: Unplug from social media and devices
Despite taking a huge step away from physically carrying my phone with me the past few months, there are still a lot of days where the instant I wake up, my thumb is hitting my Facebook app, scrolling through Instagram, and going through my inbox before I’ve even fed the kids breakfast. I am not addicted to my phone (at least not compared to other people I know), but I have gotten into the routine of surfing social media and responding to comments on my posts after my work tasks are done. Mostly out of boredom because my toddler is watching Masha and the Bear for the millionth time.
So making a choice to literally delete my social media apps off my phone was choosing to possibly be bored for the rest of the day. Surprisingly, that’s not what happened. Instead, I played with my kids, I finished a few crochet projects, read more books, took more walks, and had full conversations with my husband without being distracted by my notifications.
On my chosen day off, I’ve actually started shutting off my phone the night before and leaving my it plugged in to its charger so I don’t even have access to it. In return, I’ve found my eyes aren’t as strained throughout the day, I’m not fighting headaches at night, and my moods have been more stabilized.
Pure magic. One concept I’m still learning throughout this experience is that while work-life balance doesn’t exist for me, work and rest do need to co-exist together in order to keep my creativity flowing, my mental health in check, and help to prevent burnout.
What’s one way you choose to rest every week?
Resources to check out
- Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
- Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time and Energy Management for Busy Moms
- The Secret to Rest and Why It’ll Make Your Business Better with Jenna Kutcher
- Recommended Read: Rest: Why you Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kom Pang by Roni Loren