Struggling With Work Ethics and Downtime

WHAT’S PLAYING: White Town “Your Woman”

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”

                        – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

No offense to Mr. Brown, but just because something is correct doesn’t make it right. I’ve always had a problem with time management. Sometimes I swear I can literally feel it slipping through my fingers.

There are never enough hours in the day or days in a year. Not for everything I want to do.

Don’t believe me? Here is a breakdown of a typical workday:

3:00 AM – First alarm. Time for morning workout.

3:00:05 AM – Wake up, hit snooze, and go back to sleep, promising to exercise after work.

3:55 AM – Second alarm from across the room. Cursing the clock, my job, and mornings in general, stumble out of bed to shut it off.

4:00 AM – Coffee, shower, and more coffee.

4:30 AM – More coffee. Leave for work.

6:30 PM – Back home, exhausted and hungry.

6:30:05 PM – Stare at workout gear. Eat dinner instead.

7:00 PM – Plop down on the couch and watch whatever’s on the DVR.

8:00 PM – Shower.

8:30 PM – Set alarm for 3AM so I can get up early to exercise.

8:30:30 – Sleep.

Rinse and repeat.

Days off are pretty much the same. Except instead of work, I have an endless list of chores and errands I wasn’t able to do earlier in the week. Not to mention the six hours a day I devote to writing. Sometimes, I exercise. (Not often, but it  happens.) By the time night rolls around, I still haven’t accomplished half the things I set out to do.

Time is my nemesis. Guess who’s winning?

Part of the problem is my tendency to get caught up in little things. I’m an organization freak. While cleaning the house, I’ll stop scrubbing or vacuuming just to alphabetize my movies and books. Or I’ll revise the same paragraph repeatedly to get it “just right” before moving on.

Then there is the time I spend watching movies, playing video games and surfing the web. You know, being useless. I figure I should be able to devote as much time to living as I do to earning a living. Right?

Even though I’ve earned my downtime, I still feel guilty every time I glance at the clock and realize that I’ve been playing “Uncharted 3” for three hours. Thus, begins what I like to call “Jacqui’s Cycle of Chagrin”.

First, the guilt turns into shame. Not your everyday, run-of-the-mill shame either. I’m talking the bone-deep, nerve-twisting kind of shame found only in a house full of hardworking Southerners.

Next, the shame turns into resentment. Who says I have to work all the time?

Finally, I give up and try to force myself to be productive. It’s rarely successful. By that time, I’m so emotionally exhausted that even writing seems like a chore, which makes me feel like a colossal failure. Thus, completing the cycle.

Lately though, I’ve been thinking that maybe time isn’t my enemy after all. Maybe it’s me, my need to be a better writer, chemist, friend, sister, daughter, etc…just better. Perhaps the answer isn’t more time or even better use of it, but learning to relax and be happy in the present moment. We all need to take a break every now and again.

Even from dreams.

Advertisements

In Praise of Rainy Days

WHAT’S PLAYING:  Adele “Make You Feel My Love”

It’s been raining all week here in New Hampshire and — like the commercial says — I’m loving it. I like the rain. I like the fresh, clean smell that comes with each downpour. I like to fall  asleep to the sound of it drumming on my roof. I even prefer to take my daily walks outside when it rains. (Unless, of course, I’ve just visited the salon. Yes, I know it’s a stereotype, but the harsh reality is that sleekly styled ethnic hair and rain just don’t mix.)

But the thing I like most about rain is how it makes other people want to stay indoors. Every stormy day is a chance for me to run errands without having to interact with other people. I can’t tell you how good it feels to pull into the parking lot of my local grocery store and see that it’s almost empty. No screaming kids, no interminable lines, no creeping octogenarians, and most importantly, no morons wheeling full carts up to the 12 items or less check out stations. (You know who you are.) I usually have to do my shopping at five in the morning to get the same kind of solitude.

It’s not just the isolation I find appealing. Rain always puts me into an introspective mood that’s perfect for writing and even better for reading. The world just seems to stop and relax. Almost like sliding into a hot bubble bath after a long day’s work. Once the storm has passed, I feel renewed and invigorated to face the challenges of tomorrow. I can’t think of a better
time to start fresh than after a deluge.

So, what will you start? A new novel? Project? Lifestyle? Better hurry. Rainy days won’t last forever.