Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of articles, listened to dozens of CD’s, and watched a ton of seminars from self-help gurus whose advice always seemed peppered with offers of advanced enlightenment to anyone with a credit card.
Lots of information streamed into my head via laptop, tablet, and phone — with little of it offering any relatable answers to my problem.
My life had become a cyclonic whirlwind of deadlines and commitments — holding me captive in a state of complete overwhelm. And I needed a lifeline.
I tried prioritizing, delegating, and even saying “No” to offers of work that didn’t reflect the best use of my time.
But nothing was bringing me any sense of relief.
Until I discovered Deck Time.
The concept began to materialize last year
My husband and I were on vacation in the Caribbean, staying in a beachfront cottage on the French side of St. Martin.
The rustic home featured a covered wooden deck with two lounge chairs and a small table. We were constantly drawn to this comfy space, spending several hours every day sitting in the chairs and enjoying views of the ocean, the sandy beach, and each other.
Relaxing in the warm tropical breeze, inhaling the clean sea air, and listening to the surf race across the shore took us to places we’d never experienced. Rain or shine, we migrated to that deck, knowing we were protected and safe — without a care in the world.
About halfway through our stay, I made a promise to myself
Instead of bringing back some meaningless souvenir that would eventually find its way into the trash, I’d figure out a way to introduce deck time into our normal life after returning home.
Granted, duplicating the details of our peaceful respite would likely result in a best-efforts reproduction. But if I could manage to incorporate the main environmental “triggers” that had brought me a renewed sense of perspective, I’d have another tool to help me handle those particularly difficult days — the ones with overloaded schedules, chaotic interruptions, and non-negotiable deadlines.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t easy
The biggest challenge was making a commitment to schedule quality time in an already over-booked day.
In the face of my existing obligations, the idea seemed counterproductive. How would I manage to get everything done while spending an additional hour exclusively dedicated to getting as far away from work as possible?
But I kept remembering how I felt after those hours of deck time.
By stepping outside the alleged urgencies of life, things seemed to settle into a logical sequence. Priorities took on a natural order, and I could see my life from a bigger, more satisfying, picture.
That’s when I realized deck time had become a personal version of meditation. It brought me the same benefits as walking through a silent forest, or strolling along a deserted beach, or watching a fiery sunset drain the remaining light from the sky and replace it with stars.
The world could demand its fourteen-hour days and I would comply. But in exchange, I’d insist on spending one hour of the day that was just for me.
Because it made me a better person.
There was no turning back
I was committed — determined — not to let this new-found luxury be lost to the mounting requests and interruptions of others. No cheating, no short-cuts, and no more allowing urgent, last-minute demands to chip away at my deck time.
A year later — and the results are obvious
For me, deck time is more a state of mind than a specific place, representing a mental refuge — a personal sanctuary I look forward to visiting every day.
Realizing the stress and anxieties of a “normal” life required an off-set of intentional downtime has been cathartic. I’ve noticed a measurable increase in effectiveness and creativity that’s given a boost to all of my work.
I’ve also experienced a sense of increased control — organizing and managing the things I can directly influence, and not dwelling on the things I can’t. And most important, accepting — without guilt — the difference between the two.
Your own version of deck time might be going to the gym, or taking a yoga class, or listening to calming music infused with binaural beat technology. Or you may decide to pursue a more traditional hour of focused meditation — removing yourself from the chaos and frustration around you, and allowing yourself to experience an inner sense of emotional calm and a mentally clear mind.
Make it easier to maintain a daily hour of introspection
Choose a keyword or phrase that creates a psychological shift in priority. For example, after an afternoon of answering email, updating social media, and writing new blog posts, I often turn to my husband and ask, “Is it deck time?”
That’s all it takes for both of us to shut down our computers, grab something to drink, and head for our home’s rear patio facing the forest.
Regardless of where it takes place — on an actual deck, balcony, or the couch — my husband and I have adopted deck time as a regular part of our day. By reconnecting with nature — and each other — we’ve broken the endless and escalating cycle of stress and frustration that once overshadowed our lives.
And in the process, we’ve gained a sense of peace, perspective, and purpose.
© Jill Reid. All Rights Reserved.
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Jill Reid is a writer, founder of Pathway to Personal Growth, and editor of Real Life. Her articles explore life, happiness, self-improvement, health, productivity, and personal success strategies for living longer and stronger through positive lifestyle choices.