The Work Will Always Be There

When we think about our work and what we have to do, it’s almost always about pushing. Push yourself, push harder, push through the pain. But pushing won’t get you through every door.

When you take a look at the routines and rituals of super-productive people, they often turn out not to be about pushing at all, but pulling and drawing energy back into yourself. These recharging routines are about creating “me-time” — not in some selfish, diva way, but in an effort to care for and re-center yourself, to protect at least some of your time from being dictated by others.

Me-time routines are renewable fuel, a sustainable antidote to burnout and life as a work vampire.

As writer and marketer Felicia Sullivan told me, “It’s easy to get caught in an endless cycle of urgent emails, frenetic conference calls, and to-do lists that span pages of virtual paper, but the work will always be there. The stresses of life and of tasks left undone will always be there. Those are the constants, and how we react to them is the variable. How we’re able to affect change is the variable.”

The work, the stress will always be there. There’s always something that comes up, conditions that change, something that needs to get done.

Kumar Pallana, juggler and entertainer probably best known for his appearances in Wes Anderson’s movies, recently passed away at the age of ninety-four. In an interview with The Believer, he admitted worrying about his career — but worry is also a part of life, because “you don’t know what is coming tomorrow. In the human life, I think the worry starts from suspense: You don’t know. If you know, you can adjust yourself.”

But that uncertainty and worry didn’t mean Pallana pushed and pushed. Instead, he said, “I don’t hustle and I don’t bustle. So sometimes you’re behind but that’s okay. Your peace of mind is more important.”

The concept of “me-time” is not new, but the term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary only two months ago (along with FOMO, digital detox, emoji, selfie, and phablet, for what it’s worth). Maybe there’s something about this digital age that calls for me-time to be more officially defined, so that people can call their lack of it by a name. And then try to conjure it.

Balancing your life can be tough, because you not only have to change your habits but also give yourself permission to stop pushing all the time. Me-time requires paying attention to what parts of your life are heavy with too much or floating away with too little weight, and allowing yourself to let up on all the extreme hustle and bustle.

A version of this post originally appeared in the iDoneThis newsletter.  Subscribe for great content on productivity, motivation, and how to work better.

Image: adapted from photo by Vicente Villamón/Flickr