I work hard because I love my work. (Many have heard me say this before.)
In fact, there are moments when the work just “flows”. It is rhythmic … words turn into sentences, sentences evolve into ideas, and during those moments, I am not actually working at all. I am creating. I am not giving, I am receiving. It is awesome, and the experience feels like a gift.
Unfortunately, clients are not always willing to wait for me to have a “nirvana” experience. There are timelines, deliverables, and due dates. During these moments, the work is extremely laborious and I am a mule. Too many of these moments threaten the joy I intrinsically experience when I am working.
Even more significantly, I am in jeopardy of burnout.
Back in March of 2016, it became clear that I needed to include more discretionary time in my schedule. For the girl that worked 7 days a week, up to 10 hours a day, it seemed like a no brainer. But it wasn’t. I feared reducing my labor, would mean reducing my productivity.
As I contemplated this quandary, I received a nudge from Alan Weiss (2010). In his book Million Dollar Coaching, he wrote,
Discretionary time is the time available for use, free of obligation.
Taking Weiss’ lead, my goal for 2016 was to accumulate as much discretionary time as possible. That year, we have spent more time walking on beaches at day-break, taking in mid-week movies at noon, and lingering over cocktails after dinner. We were busy, but less hurried. The work was demanding, but we were less stressed. And to my surprise; more discretionary time DID NOT = less productivity.
It was just the opposite; more discretionary time = more productivity.
How could this be?
After enjoying some discretionary time, I reengage work more focused and clear headed. I am less fatigued, more creative, and more innovative.
I will admit, I do think about work during my downtime, but without the pressure of having to do it. Instead of behaving like a bulldozer and plowing through the work, ideas are free to come and go. When I appreciate a particular idea, I write it down so that I can revisit it later.
I am grateful to Dr. Weiss and consider my experience last year to be a huge win!
For 2017, I decided to follow the same work / discretionary time formula as I did in 2016. But the impact has not been exactly the same. A different monster reared its head … TECHNOLOGY.
Technology is supposed to make work more efficient. But I wonder if it hasn’t run-a-muck.
Each client project has its own email server and list serve. I am constantly deleting and adding new email address to my phone. I have multiple laptops that correlate with different projects. And every time my iPhone, iPad, Mac Pro or laptop “dings” it seizes my attention. Even if I am enjoying discretionary time, I still experience an involuntary response. This has clearly developed into a learned behavior. I fear that it is evolving into a distraction that has the potential to pull me back into old behaviors.
When I am enjoying discretionary time, make a portion of that time “technology blackout time”.
Can I do it? I’m not so sure …
On my way to breakfast the other day, I realized I forgot my cell phone. I still reached for it several times, not for any particular reason, but more out of habit. By the end of the breakfast, I felt anxious, thinking to myself, “I hope I haven’t missed anything important”. This involuntary ruminating is counterproductive.
My next step towards improving my overall quality of life is to detox from the “ding”. I have no idea if I can handle the withdrawal.
Gia Suggs, MPA, MA, EdD is an Organization Development Consultant. She manages a private practice and is a Distinguished Adjunct Professor at Olivet Nazarene University located in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Dr. Gia is the author of Onboarding; Maximizing the Success of New Employees & co-author with Hayward Suggs of Shattering the Glass Ceiling; How to Break Through Without Breaking Down (both available on Amazon.com).We would love to hear from you! Please submit your comments, questions, and feedback. Let us know how we are doing. Want to connect with Dr. Gia? Click HERE to request information.