I have spent much of my adult life struggling to believe that it’s okay to simply relax and do nothing.
I grew up believing that my value was directly connected to what I accomplished every day. If I wasn’t producing something tangible, I would quickly begin to feel anxious and unsettled.
After a lifetime of taking short vacations, this year my wife and I experimented with taking three weeks off during the summer.
After all, flexibility and adventure are two of the biggest reasons I decided to work for myself.
Several years ago I read a counter intuitive book called ‘The Power of Full Engagement’ by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. The premise of the book is based on the fact that elite athletes practice something called “periodization” – meaning they manage their work-rest ratios.
In simple terms, it means they give as much emphasis and priority to resting and recovering as they do to practicing and competing. Taking time to renew, as it turns out, is critical to consistent high performance.
Could it be that the more renewal we build into our lives, the more creative and productive we’ll become?
Honestly, I’m trying to sort this out for myself right now.
Every month I conduct a review of my business where I track everything from revenue growth to podcast downloads and web site traffic.
In August (an arguably slow month for many businesses), my podcast downloads doubled and I had more coaching inquiries than the previous three months combined.
I had the second highest amount of traffic to my site and my revenue increased slightly, even though I had stepped away from my business for most of the month.
Was this a coincidence? I really don’t know but it certainly got my attention.
So, yes, I’m taking a serious look at the impact of rest and renewal on my productivity and results.
I’ll probably never know for sure if taking time away is what helped fuel my recent results. I have a feeling it’s not quite that simple.
After all, I had worked hard in the weeks leading up to our trip so it would only make sense for things to pick up while I checked out.
But it does warrant asking the question; is renewal and time away directly related to exponentially higher results?
What about just taking time off for its own sake?
It had never occurred to me that taking time off might be something worth doing for it’s own sake – to have a more fulfilled and adventurous life.
Why do I have to always be accomplishing something?
Isn’t it okay to just do something purely for the joy of doing it?
And on a beach along the Central Oregon coast I think I found my answers.
I’m not precisely sure what shifted during that afternoon on the beach, but I know that I was enjoying the adventure purely for the joy of it.
It had taken me over 2 weeks to allow this feeling of freedom without a hint of apprehension to dull the experience.
And the feeling of pure enjoyment persisted.
I noticed that I was more relaxed over meals. I was used to eating quickly and instead I found myself taking time to enjoy the food and my surroundings.
I didn’t feel so rushed to immediately head to the next activity or to create one.
I began looking forward to the nightly campfire and getting a glimpse of the first star to show itself.
I stopped thinking about checking email, Facebook, podcast stats, etc.
My mind began to rest, but my body felt awakened.
On the final morning of our trip, my wife and I took a last walk on the beach with our dog and then went for a leisurely breakfast. And I can’t remember a word of discussion about what needed to get done in my biz when I got home.
I love what I do, and I was excited on Tuesday morning to return to my office. Within a short time, I felt happily immersed.
What I’m hoping is that I’ve found a new balance. When I’m working, I’m all in. And when I’m relaxing, I’m all out.
P.S. When was the last time you felt perfectly okay with doing nothing?