What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(William Henry Davies)
I’m writing this blog the old fashioned way; with a paper and pen. I’m also sat on a beach, under a palm tree, the gentle sound of the sea in the background. Not that I’m trying to make you jealous at all. I’m on a well-earned vacation. I’m relaxed. And I am thinking clearly, without distractions or demands on my schedule.
Our working lives are full. We rush from meeting to meeting with no gap in between. Read emails on the go, take calls in the evening and in the car, plan the next day while we lie in bed. Every moment is accounted for, the diary stacked, the demands continuous. This is the life that most of us expect. We don’t question it; it’s just the corporate thing. Join the race and start running.
At work, there is always something. An email, a voicemail, a text message. An urgent meeting. Someone needing just a minute. The noise of the open plan office. Things to eat into your day, your head space, your thinking time. A distraction around every corner. Think about your last couple of days at work. When did you get a minute, to just think, to get beyond the distractions? To simply be? What do you actually get paid to do anyway? Jump up, jump down, react, be a busy worker bee? Ask yourself. Is that your best contribution, what you really should be doing for yourself, your team, your organization? Time away from work gives you space. Space to think, create, refresh. Just be. Space for new ideas.
I’m guessing that you’ve met a workaholic. You might even be one yourself. Someone who just can’t put the phone down. Has to send one more email. Working into the small hours, the weekend, eating into family time. They think the organization won’t last without them, their team just won’t cope. Holidays are for the shirkers and the slackers. Worse is when the company are driving this culture. Expecting employees to be available, on-call, on demand.
What we don’t always sit back and notice is the effect of all this rushing around on our cognitive function. Concentration drops. Attention decreases. Physical performance diminishes. Studies link excessive working hours to ill-health; increased heart disease, depression, stress. When we are tired, rushing, cramming too much in, fail to take a break, we are not optimal. The brain and body isn’t wired this way. It needs time to recharge, if you want to perform well. So give yourself a rest. Take a vacation. Check your emails just once a day. Take a little exercise and eat good food. Be kind to yourself. Sit by the pool. And just be. You’ll thank yourself for it.
Can you excuse me now, I’m off for a swim.