Time Out! (Blog 52: Episode Eight)

Photo by Nathan Shively

When you’re pushing 52 years old, it’s not always fun being reminded of your age. Yet, the reminders are everywhere. They show up whether you’re prepared for them or not. They show up unannounced. They show up when you need to be 25 … But you’re not.

Last week “Mr. 52-Week Blog Productivity Guy” got placed in Time Out. It was last week’s revenge on what I’d put my body through the previous week, as I deprived myself of sleep in order to meet a deadline on a big project. At the time, it felt great. I was working on the launch of a website which involved a lot of technical as well as creative work.

I’m not a techie, but I loved mastering the technical aspects as much as the creative process. In a project like that — a labor of love — time has a way of putting on wings. There’s always something to adjust or tweak to perfection. Whether I chose to admit it consciously, or not, before long I felt like I was back in college. I could stay up all night. I could live off coffee and adrenaline. I could do it night-over-night; back-to-back — and handle the rest of my daily responsibilities.

Except that I couldn’t.

The truth is that I’m 52. Running my engine like that led to a noisy crash. In short, life put me in Time Out — where I spent all of last week. It’s Tuesday as I write this post. I’m a day late on publishing it, and I’m not yet fully recovered. Last night I thought I was holding a conversation. I later found out I was actually drooling on my pillow.

At the start of my big project, I was like …

Photo by Joel Herzog

I was a graceful gazelle (or is that an antelope?) — I’m not sure what it is, but I was energetic! I bounded across the plains of website copy, email captures, downloads, video feeds and html code.

I was a beast.

I finished my project on a Sunday night — right on time for the Monday launch. I laid my head down and slept. Then I slept some more. Then I couldn’t stop.

Halfway through the week I told myself to cut it out — that I couldn’t be this tired. I had other projects to finish. It wasn’t helpful to fall asleep staring at my laptop. My body wouldn’t listen. It refused to focus.

By the end of the week I was like …

Photo by Johanneke Kroesberger-Kamps

That’s my wife beside me. She came along for the carnage. Apparently, the vegan smoothies that we’d been downing for the past several weeks couldn’t offset the crash of 2017. I guess even turmeric and ginger have their limits.

What’s my takeaway?

Okay. Some of you know this. I’m a lay-preacher. So, in true pastor-lingo, let me give you the four R’s:

Rest. This one’s easy. You’ve got to get the right amount of rest in your routine. This blog is about being productive, but in a healthy way. What good is success if you can’t enjoy it?

I don’t live a lifestyle of constant output like I did week before last. But that’s by choice. I have so much interesting stuff going on, that I could easily drift in that direction. It would take nothing to simply ignore my body and plunge headlong into the next exciting thing — correction, it could take my health. It’s not worth it.

Yes, I spent most of last week asleep. That was worth every moment.

Reset. If you’re a goal-driven person, unplanned weeks off are more than an inconvenience — if you let them be. The lost time and missed deadlines can send you into a self-defeating swirl to the bottom. Add that to your weakened physical state and you have the recipe for a meltdown.

I gave myself permission long ago to reorder my priorities when needed. I do it often. It helps me to keep my expectations in check, and my feet on the ground. I am no less driven or ambitious about the big things that I want to make happen in my life and the lives of others. I’m just more zen about it. I give myself room to breathe.

Reengage. Hard work can be isolating. In my case, I work with a partner so we lean on each other during the climb and during the crash. (That’s actually another blog post: find a good partner!) — But I’ll throw it in here for good measure.

We used this downtime to reengage with each other. For example, on a couple evenings when we were too spent to do anything, we indulged in some dark, organic chocolate, with orange flavors and a nice Merlot. Another night, we ordered up some of our favorite food and watched a stupid movie. We also did some brain-dead stuff like cleaning up around the house — whatever it took to recharge.

I’m nine days into this loop, and I’m not fully there yet. This much I’ve learned: It’s better to take yourself out of the game, than to be taken out by it. I used to drive my wife crazy with this word. Maybe it makes you a little annoyed too.

Here’s the fourth R-word …

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo

I came into this year on a big ball of steam. I love the momentum that forward progress brings. But I must also be aware of my limitations. Last week reminded me how important it is to balance and re-balance until you find your sweet spot. It also reminded me that the best part of life is not getting things done. The best part of life is taking the time to enjoy life itself.

I think that’s it for now. Honestly, I’m a little sleepy.

No, really …