It won’t surprise readers of my Author Journal posts that I’ve been running on fumes for the past month or two, nearing burnout. The routine, which I love, started to wear on me to the point I swear I could see the hamster wheel I was stuck on day after day.
But I had time off coming up, so that managed to keep me going…until I started to think about how that time off would look. It would be like my days off, you know, when you catch up on all the other things you have to do, like shopping, cleaning, and other ‘non-work’ things we all have to do. It didn’t exactly fill me with the holiday excitement I should have felt. The only part I looked forward to was heading out on my bike.
In no way do I think I’m alone in this. I know I’m not. Sometimes, or even most of the time, we all feel like we can’t ever take a break. It’s a weird problem. We know we need a break, but we want someone else to tell us to take it. And, even if someone else does, for some reason, we ignore it. Maybe it’s because we know that our to-do list won’t magically get done. Or worse, it’ll grow while we stop for a bit. So, we trudge on.
There are at least three main camps of thought (in my mind, anyway) on why we can’t possibly take a break.
- I run on empty, knowing that I can’t possibly keep up my current rate of work-work-work, but fear that if I stop, I’ll never get started again. (That’s me!)
- I need someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me to relax and that they’ll take over for a bit. (I’m too much of a control freak for this one.)
- I should be able to do this! That famous author/influencer/[insert the do-it-all of your choice] words a job, cleans the house top-to-bottom, runs ten miles, and still has time to share homemade gourmet pics on Instagram, and so should I!
Running on empty is a symptom of a too high workload. Take a step back and reevaluate your goals—or set some—and make sure they’re realistic. The timeframe for the goal is likely too short (yip, that was true for me). Check out my post on goals for a quick and dirty look at setting realistic, achievable goals.
By tracking what you do, you can look back at all you have achieved during the week/month/however long. Take time to celebrate the wee milestones because there’s nothing worse in the long slog toward a goal than not noticing how far you’ve come.
Social Media Isn’t Reality
You know the ones on Social Media that make you feel like you should be able to do it all, just like them? Yeah, they might not be as on it as you think. Social Media isn’t reality. Their Instagram feed is just a photograph or a series of photos. If you search how they do it on YouTube, you’ll quickly realise it’s not their everyday lives but a mini-photo shoot. (On the cleaning front, some have cleaners go in twice a week.)
You’re Not a Robot
Remember that you’re human. No one can keep chugging along on fumes. And, if you prefer to think of yourself as a machine, well, even machines require a reboot. So, stop being a dick to yourself.
Leading By Example
This might seem like a bit of a hypocritical post, seeing as I just confessed to being close to burnout. But, yesterday, I took my advice and had my first REAL day off in four months. It was uneventful and gloriously decadent (compared to my usual daily grind).
My average days off are filled with working on the blog, going shopping, catching up on washing etc. (Jez and I share the household chores, so it’s equal misery for both 😉). There’s no real break for either of us.
But, yesterday, after a quick 10km cycle to the bike shop and back, I was reluctant to do my dailies. [My dailies consist of keeping my planner and journal up-to-date, doing a three-page brain dump—longhand, working out, WordPress reader catch-up, and updating our finances.]
After much guilt over not wanting to do them, I gave myself permission to slide for a day, just one. I was finally going to have a fucking break.
I Took a Break!
As breaks go, it won’t cause much jealousy. It wasn’t exactly Instagrammable.
We made a fancy, flat rice noodle lunch and for once took our time eating it. It wasn’t so much what we did, as it was what I didn’t do that made the day so luxurious for me.
There was no rush to work on our sites or to deal with other things. I didn’t go overboard being “good” with food—we got a wee box of chocolates to share and still have half of it left! I even skipped washing my hair for the day. And I cut out work in the afternoon—I get about three to four hours every afternoon. We even fell asleep on the sofa! It was amazing.
Was It Worth It?
Now, you may be wondering, was taking a break from my regular daily tasks—the marketing and business crap that goes along with the writing job—and “falling behind”?
And, as shocking as it sounds, I don’t feel like I’ve fallen behind. By pushing myself so hard for so long, I had actually slowed down in certain aspects of the job. Had I kept going, I would have fallen behind. But now, I feel refreshed, if a bit tired, re-energised, and clear-headed. I feel better prepared to face the hamster wheel, daily grind, rat race, whatever people call the routine of work.
What’s The Plan?
With the success of yesterday’s break day, I started thinking about how I could integrate what I’ve learned into my schedule. It’s not something I can give time to every week—or would even want to do every week—but once a month sounds perfect for a boost.
It’ll be a day I will respect and treat like a much-loved national holiday—one where no work, no chores are allowed to intrude.
As mentioned above, days off aren’t exactly days off for us, so I refuse to call it that. And, a nothing or break day sounds meh. So, I’ve decided to call it Chimp Day.
Chimp Day will be a day where I let my inner chimp have free reign—a day where I celebrate the progress achieved and spoil myself rotten. (Check out this post for a quick explainer of what the chimp is.)
Thanks for reading 🐒
Do you have trouble letting yourself take a break? Do you have your own version of a Chimp Day? What would you like to do or not do on your version of Chimp Day?