“Finally, I’m home,” I thought, “now, I can get on with work.”
It was 8pm. I had just returned from a long day of meetings back to back. It had been fun, but the endless small talk, serious business discussions and rushing like a mad woman all across the city had left me completely depleted. All I wanted was my bed.
My to-do list was having none of it. It kept staring at me, nudging me to get going. There were still so many tasks to do before I could call it a day and get some rest.
With a heavy sigh, I sat down at my desk, turned my computer on and started typing. Or, better, I tried to type. I was so incredibly tired, my brain was completely blank. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence.
I decided to put the article on hold. After all, I still had one more day to write it. It would be almost pushing the deadline, but forcing myself to stare at a blank page for 2 more hours would do it no good, anyway. Worse, it’d prevent me to focus on other smaller tasks that didn’t require so much brain power, like replying to emails or creating cute graphics for social media.
It didn’t take me long to realise even the smallest task was out of my reach. My body was engaged in a war with my to-do list. It demanded me to fight its hold on me, go to bed, read a good book and fall asleep.
In the past, my to-do list had always won. So what if it took me 1 hour instead of 10 minutes to create a graphic for Facebook or 3 hours instead of 1 to jot down a brief outline for my article? I was getting things done, ladies!
I was delusional. In a desperate effort to save time, I wasted it. In my urgency to get as much as possible done, I accomplished almost nothing. That little I did was riddled with errors, as I would always realise the next morning when I looked at it with a fresh head.
That evening I made a different choice.
With my endless to-do list still untouched, I turned off my computer and went to bed.
I didn’t expect what happened next.
“Me Time” Makes You More Productive
I woke up the next day feeling completely refreshed and invigorated. I sat down in front of my computer to work and, almost as if by magic, I was crossing items off to-do list faster than ever.
That had never happened before. In the past, I’d stay awake till the wee hours of the morning, go to bed for a short time and wake up groggy and tired. I needed to drink a huge cup of coffee to be alert enough to function. I’d get stuff done, but, somehow, my to-do list never seemed to get any shorter. There was always an extra task I had forgotten about or a mistake I needed to fix.
Not that day. That day I was in flow.
It was then that I realised the power of “me time”.
The Productivity Paradox
You fool yourself into thinking that you need to get everything done now. Even if you’re tired. So exhausted, your eyes threaten to close down and you’re about to fall asleep at your desk. You reach out for yet another cup of coffee. At 2 am.
You can’t afford to take even a five minute break, let alone your 8 hours of sleep. You’ll get behind on your schedule and the world will fall down. You’ll lose the client. Get fired from your job. The bank will take your house.
But you end up losing the client anyway because the presentation you worked all night on just isn’t good enough. You’re testing your boss’ patience because you didn’t hear the alarm go off this morning – again. You fall asleep at the wheel and next thing you now, you’re in the hospital.
To keep going when your body can’t take it anymore doesn’t make you more productive. It makes you waste time. Compromises the quality of your work. It destroys your health.Me time isn't a luxury. It's a necessity.
The Real Reason Why You Don’t Take “Me Time”
When you’re tired, you can’t get anything done. Taking some time off for a walk in the park, a bubble bath or playing with your kids to recharge your batteries is the logical thing to do.
So, why don’t we do it?
Because we're scared of the blank space.
Once you get off the treadmill, you see it for what it really is: an endless list of duties and obligations others have imposed upon you.
While you’re running like a headless chicken on it, doing your best to keep up, you feel good about yourself. You’re getting so many compliments for getting stuff done, fulfilling expectations and pleasing everyone but yourself.
Your society’s darling. It feels good.
But, if you dare step off it and into that blank space where tasks and business are replaced by nothingness and time to think, you realise that the world will keep turning if you take two days rather than one to write that article, that you got your priorities all wrong and that you’d rather spend your time doing something really meaningful.
But you have no clue what that is. You sense its power and it scares you. The nothingness forces you to come face to face with your deepest desires, your worst fears. The two are always intertwined. [clickToTweet tweet=”The nothingness forces you to face your deepest desires, your worst fears. The two are always intertwined. ” quote=”The nothingness forces you to face your deepest desires, your worst fears. The two are always intertwined. “]
Going back on the treadmill is easier. You know what to do. You know you’ll get praised for it. It’s familiar. Comforting even.
But you’d miss out on life. You’d get a lot of stuff done only to realise too late, none of them really mattered. The things that were really important to you passed you by. Your life passed you by.
Take time to smell the roses.
Over to you, now. Have you ever taken a break only to realise you were happier and more productive afterwards? Share your experience in the comments below.