Earlier last week, I found myself getting slower and slower, albeit not deliberately. After 3 weeks of taking on more to-dos, spending more late nights in the office and way too many business dinner meetings, I noticed that I was no longer performing at my optimal speed. Hard as I try to be “in the zone,” it was becoming a challenge for me to focus. What took an hour’s worth of preparation for presentation slides became two. My already-short attention span became nil. I became restless and unproductive.
It was time to take a break. Slow down. For real.
Here’s the thing: I just got used to doing things on hyperspeed that I feel uncomfortable slowing down. Worse, I feel guilty slowing down.
On the first point: whenever I try to take a day off, telling myself that I need to learn “the art of doing nothing,” I end up getting fidgety, restless…and depressed. My hands get clammy and shaky because they’re itching to tap the keyboards of my Macbook to answer emails.
Arshad can attest to this. When I was left at home for a day, barely after lunch, he already got a message from me: “I’m feeling depressed.”
I was hard-wired to have a disciplined routine. I wake up early, I work out everyday and I always have a checklist of my things to do, sub-categorized into projects, both personal and for work.
When I need to take a break, I feel guilty leaving my to-do list and projects behind. It was as if it was a mortal sin for me to.
I’m aware it’s not healthy to not slow down, to not learn HOW to. I knew I was running myself to the ground and I needed to stop.
Or at least take a pause. And so I did.
With last week’s holiday because of Indonesia’s 72nd Independence Day, I decided to file a day off and take advantage of a longer weekend. I needed to space out and unload my brain as I was draining out.
So off I went to Bogor (which I will blog about soon) to just do some of my favorite things that always get interrupted because of a long to-do list.
Work out. Run. Read. Write. Get a massage. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
For 3 days, I did all of those. I didn’t even dare go out of the resort.
I made a dent in my book. I slept a complete 7 hours for 2 consecutive nights. I still woke up early to see the sun rise and complete my day’s run. I still peeped at some of my emails (just a peep, promise).
But I deliberately slowed my pace down.
I enjoyed my coffee and my fruit plate for breakfast. I savored the pages of my book. I made time to breathe properly. I sat in a corner and stared at the horizon to just really notice the things around me.
At the end of the second day, I felt completely recharged. My shoulders were not as tight (thanks to the messages as well), I had a clearer perspective and there was lightness in every step that I took.
After 2 days, I had more vivid dreams, a better memory recall and a happier, lighter disposition. Heck, I think I even solved a strategy dilemma that I’m currently grappling with at work while I was on the massage table. If that is not clarity enough, then I don’t know what else to call it.
I literally felt so much better. Lighter. Even happier.
After I went back to Jakarta, I realized that I should give myself more credit and more leeway to take small breaks because it makes me so much more productive.
It’s a healthy pause to save my sanity, my health, my wellness of being.
I also realized that I have a lot of women friends and colleagues like me who just won’t stop, no matter the awareness that it’s counter-intuitive to just trudge ahead.
I wrote this because I want it to be a reminder to myself when I’m doing it again- slowly killing my joie’ de vivre for not stopping- that the pause is very much needed and well-deserved.
At the same time, I want others like me to read this and to know that it’s okay. We deserve the pause. There should be neither guilt nor shame in it.
And after the pause, am I ready to begin again?
Other articles on on productivity and slowing down to be more productive that I found helpful: