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Thursday Thread: Rest and Lessons Learned During a Pandemic  Thumbnail

Thursday Thread: Rest and Lessons Learned During a Pandemic

There is difference between a day of work, a day off, and a day of rest. We tolerate the first, live for the second, and fantasize about the third.

I use RescueTime to track my screen time productivity. It isn’t heroic, just a free app that brings awareness to how you spend your minutes while your retinas are toasting (for those that spend the majority of their hours in front of some type of screen). They just posted a blog highlighting the inevitable burn-out that is on the horizon as our world begins to re-open.  We are all headed back out there, some of us in the same way as before. Will we jump back in as abruptly as we were forced out? I hope we take the lessons with us.

I hear more and more statistics and science debunking the myth of “multi-tasking.” I can feel it too. There is no such thing as complex multi-tasking (we are talking about watching tv and having a conversation all while scrolling social media, not chatting on the phone while taking a walk).  Instead, there is only rapid task-switching, or "Context Switching." And for my millennial generation who was first championed for being hyper productive because of perceived multi-tasking, I can now speak for all of us that task switching is exhausting, unsustainable, and a disservice to yourself and those you encounter.

We live inside a society that prioritizes work, or career, over time spent with family, with friends, or even by ourselves. At first glance, this cannot be right:

We cannot wait to retire from our jobs.

We save up in order to go on vacations for as long as possible.

We dread Mondays, call Wednesday “hump day,” and exclaim TGIF, all in anticipation of the weekend.

But if we take a closer look:

Boredom and depression spike in retirement (especially early retirement) because you lose the creative outlet, the empowerment, the routine, and the contribution that has been visceral for 75% of your lifetime.

Ever feel less rested and energized after vacation than you did before?

Weekends are usually split between chores, “unwinding” from the week, and the "Sunday Scaries" (the modern phenomenon that fills us with anxiety and dread for the impending workweek). 

Our relationship with a 5-day workweek and 2-day weekend is complicated, to say the least. And this was true before the Global Covid-19 Pandemic. But…much was shattered. Between my friend who was furloughed immediately, to another friend whose 9-hour days transitioned from 100% in person to 100% online, the Pandemic brought rapid change to our lifestyles. Here are some things I learned from my own experience, and from those closest to me:

If you do not rest, I may not trust you

Woah, sounds harsh. Yes, that was for affect. Work/Life balance is becoming a telltale indicator of effective work and overall well-being. Let me explain by flipping my circumstance. If I were hiring a financial advisor, a question I would ask him or her would be “How many days do you work in a week?” followed by “What do you do when you are not working?” The old way of showing competency is by quantity – not quality – of saturation in your subject. There was a lack of information available, and only those that had the means could access and consume that information. Now we have the internet and search engines, and so clarity and decisiveness are worth their weight in gold. And I don’t care how much information you think you retain, if you don’t take a break, recharge, be in relationship, be quiet, get outside (both physically and of the business), then your advice is watered down and is not what I am looking for. This lesson was much less about others, and much more about me. I will not be that advisor to our client families. Therefore, my week is now held to a different standard.   

Pay attention to capacity and margin

Limits, boundaries, and capacity. All words that grow in importance as we age. When we are young, it is all about no limits, breaking boundaries, and stretching capacity. As I mentioned in a past post, there is something soul filling when you learn to live in harmony with your own capacity. Please don’t hear me wrong, this is not a “folding” under the status-quo. This is more personal. Everyone has a capacity that they must come to know, especially around Time. There are no more hours in a day. Parkinson’s law comes into play: time working will adjust to the amount of time available to work. If you do not create structure or shape to your day, you will be ruled by that which is urgent, instead of that which is important, and your day will be full but chaotic and less effective. It is difficult to stumble across margin accidentally.   

“Only A Sith Deals in Absolutes”

This has been one of my favorite Star Wars quotes for a long time. Don’t worry about what a Sith is…they are unhealthy people who live the mantra “if you are not with me, then you are against me.” This way of life is the result of exhaustion and anger, not rest and clear mindedness. As a collective grappling with global transition, daily heartbreaking stories (the Boulder grocery store shooting just happened when writing this), and ideological warfare, it is so easy to give up hope, and either become indifferent or extreme. It takes more courage, more grace, more patience, and more work to synthesize the information overload. But we must learn to do it, not just assigning absolutes onto topics that are too difficult or uncomfortable to address. If we are not willing to do this work, then we must limit the information overload. Our brains do not have the capacity to hold so many bizarre stories and fears without the accompanying side-effects of deep resentment, sadness, isolation, and hopelessness.

As a disclaimer, the ability to "rest" from one’s work is a choice, but it is also a privilege in our day and age. Much of the above has no grounding for those who are forced to work 7 days a week at multiple jobs to keep food on the table and the bills paid. If this is your reality, your well-being is a different frontier, and while some points may apply, others will not. 

So, as our cities open back up and parts of life resume as they were pre-pandemic, have you learned anything that you will carry forward? Has your endgame changed? Have your resources changed? How will you better spend your time? Your money?

There are lessons from the past year that could not have been taught without the interruption. Did they teach you?

Be careful out there.

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The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.