In a world where we are constantly switched on and connected, why do we always feel bad and are made to feel so guilty when we do nothing?
I’ve read more and more recently about people boasting and sharing an insight to their working day. Up at 5am, 2 hour workout or at their mac, breakfast of egg white omelette, smoothie bowl with chia seeds and a cold pressed ginger juice shot while making serious business decisions. Managing conference calls on the commute in, at the office before 9am. A solid morning of work, a working lunch at their desk, an afternoon of work then back home to carry on, working late into the night on side projects. This is not a realistic or a sensible way of working*. If you find yourself working long hours regularly then you are doing something wrong.
Productivity is key. Don’t sit in that 2 hour meeting if you can find a solution, create a simple action plan or set objectives within 15 mins. Could that meeting have been an email? Think about how productive you are over a course of a day. I for one work better in the morning, my mind is alert and usually I ensure any mundane tasks until the afternoon or post lunch lull.
Outputs not inputs. You don’t get anywhere for working through lunch, getting in an hour early, staying an hour late. It’s the people achieving what they set out to do within the working day we should be learning from. According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, only 39% of an employee’s time is spent on role-specific tasks. The other 61%? Slogging through email, trying to find a missing file, or syncing with co-workers. Plus meetings. So many meetings.
“Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up/ The real hero is already home because they figured out a faster way to get things done”.”
Focus when you’re fresh. Treat this time as you would an important client meeting. Book out small blocks of time and avoid clicking the refresh button on your email or having a quick look at Twitter. Remember our ability to resist distractions declines throughout the day. The smallest distraction can drain our ability to focus, things like email notifications and having your phone in your eyeline, (damn that family whatsapp group)
Our phones are always no more than a few metres away, more devices are connected to Wi-Fi than ever before, fridges and even ovens are now becoming connected devices. When’s the last time you sat and read, or drew or talked with a loved one without the noise and distraction? So many people spend their evenings with the TV on in the background as couples aimlessly scroll through facebook or the Daily Mail App. Now, I’m not saying we should all live perfect lives, it’s all about the balance.
“It is not enough to be busy, (the ants are busy) we must ask: ‘What are we busy about?”
– Henry David Thoreau
Hard work is important, making mistakes, picking yourself up after a fall and learning again is all part of our personal growth. There is no doubt that if you put your mind to something and believe in yourself it will lead to good things. Passion projects and side projects are much needed to keep us sane but we shouldn’t be defined about how many we are working on. If you want to simply work the day job, whether that’s freelance design or agency life, then side but don’t think you have to be burning the candle at both end to be successful.
It’s okay to do nothing. I mean, really nothing. You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating a family sharing bag of salted tortillas, and a 4 pack of toffee crisps and binging your way through The Staircase on Netflix (If you haven’t watched it, you should start immediately!) As long as it doesn’t become the norm. “But all my peers are working hard and are more successful than me!” I hear you shout. We all know social media is a filtered, an obscure version of the life people want us to see. I used to think I had to work every hour in the day, spend my evenings perusing that idealistic dream, #nevernotworking. It doesn’t work and isn’t something we should be shouting about for the next generation to believe as normal.
I’ve found my balance and what works for me. Yes I get up at 6:30 and go to the gym before work 4 times a week, (I rarely shout about my workouts. It would be boring) but I also enjoy nothing more than a pizza and some beers on the weekend. I earned that stuffed crust, okay! In my evenings I spend time learning, reading and working on personal work. Saying that, some days I come home, eat a bag of crisps on the sofa in front of the Food Channel watching reruns of Rick Stein before even considering what I am going to make for dinner. The website update or personal project I’ve been putting off will have to wait another day. There is nothing wrong with that. We all have lives, partners who crave our attention, pets who want some treats or to play, an overgrown lawn that needs mowing, an endless list of jobs we’ve been putting off.
Now, promise me, when you get home tonight you won’t check your work email, or feel guilty about having some you time. You’ve earnt it. Tell someone close to you that you love them. Press that snooze button tomorrow morning and reward yourself with a few intervals of 8 minutes sleep.
It’s okay to not be busy all of the time.
*For some people, getting up before work to spend some uninterrupted time on a personal project works well for them. Pushing pixels while the family sleeps, perfect scenario. If you have an agreement with the other half, can survive on 5 hours sleep a night, still manage to do your day job and be a decent person without 9238 cups of coffee then great. I salute you. Let’s just not make it a thing. Please. Now give yourself a day off and have a lie in.