Last week I was chatting about business with a friend and fellow entrepreneur. The conversation came around to productivity and getting things done. At some point I told her, “Some days I don’t work at all.”
“Really?!” she said. “Wow. That’s good to know. I wouldn’t have guessed that about you.”
I was shocked that she was shocked. Doesn’t everyone not work now and then (besides weekends)? I mean, I can’t go full throttle all day, every day, 5 days a week. When I worked at my corporate job, I pretended I worked full throttle, but I didn’t. I went to yoga over lunch. I spent time during the day chatting with friends. I would sneak outside to go for a walk. I left really early on Fridays. Working full-on for 40+ hours a week would have killed me.
40 hours a week isn’t reasonable
When I work, I work. I’m on. And I can’t be on 40+ hours each week. It’s not possible. No one can. At least, not without making huge sacrifices to health, mental and emotional well-being, and creativity.
When I honor my body’s need for a break by not working, productivity skyrockets when I return to working. I get more done overall when I work fewer hours. To be clear, when I say “honor my body’s need for a break,” I don’t mean waiting until it is screaming for a nap or a massage; I mean listening for the inner whispers that say “don’t work right now.” And when I say “work fewer hours,” I’m not convinced I can get this down to zero and still make a living. But I think you get the gist of this equation.
I could explain how much I don’t work by sharing my schedule. But the thing is, I don’t have a schedule. I don’t “take Fridays off” (well sometimes I do, but not always). Each morning I check in and see how I feel before deciding what to work on. Some days I write, some days I create, and other days I goof off with our puppy all morning. I let my body guide me into my work day. This doesn’t mean that if I have a client appointment but don’t feel like coaching, I ignore the phone when it rings. I honor my commitments, I don’t over-schedule myself in the first place, and I listen to my body when it tells me what it can and can not handle.
How to Not Work
1. Become aware of how you feel, moment-to-moment.
In order to integrate not working into your work life, first focus on becoming aware of how you feel at several points throughout the day. Are you feeling tired, energized, or bored, or are you feeling something else? Make it a habit to check in with yourself regularly.
2. Honor those feelings.
As you become increasingly aware of how you’re feeling, you can adjust what you’re doing and how you’re dong it. If you’re tired, you can take a break instead of mindlessly perusing Facebook. If you notice that you’re full of creative ideas first thing in the morning, use that time for your creative pursuits instead of answering emails.
3. Listen to your inner voice and follow its instructions.
Most importantly, listen to your inner voice when it tells you to take a break. It’s easy to ignore that voice when it’s been stifled by overworking. It’s easier to comply with the voice when you’ve taken time to be check in regularly to hear what it has to say. The more often you check in, listen, and heed its requests, the less likely you are to be forced to rest due to sheer exhaustion or illness.
Not Working is a Damn Good Idea
The conversation with my friend continued and we both confessed to not working quite often. It was humorous that the topic seemed a bit taboo, even among friends. But once I divulged my not working strategy, we both admitted how important not working was to getting things done. I told my friend how some days I don’t have it in me to be on, so I don’t work. She felt relieved to know she wasn’t the only one who couldn’t work nonstop for 40 hours a week.
You have permission to not work when you don’t have anything to give. Honor your body, your brain, and your creativity. Work when you feel inspired. Take a break when you’re empty. You’ll get just as much done, maybe even more, if you work less.
How are you going to incorporate not working into your work life? Do you already? Please share!