Shutting Down

One of the biggest problems with integrating work and life more closely is the balance. As nice as it is to blur the lines and reconsider when ‘work’ time actually happens, allowing more flexibility for ‘home’ time, it’s easy to never stop. When you enjoy what you do, work is as much of a hobby as anything, so taking time away from it seems an alien concept.

Mindfulness and meditation are very much the buzz words of our time. My interpretation of their rise, is that it’s important to switch off –fully- sometimes. It’s something I’ve always struggled to do.

Through The Work Project I’ve managed to create a new balance – spending more time with my family, while working more. My recent experiment in being nocturnal worked really well to finish a piece of work I needed to finish, but this week it’s gone to a new level.

I’m currently camping in the Cotswolds with my extended family. My brother and his wife are back from Thailand for a few weeks and we’ve all taken the opportunity to get out and sty out for a few days. I’m writing this from The Ram Inn, Woodchester enjoying a pint of Old Rosie Cider. My kids are running around, my sister’s boyfriend is reading the paper and my brother is writing emails to prospective visitors to his guest house.

What is relaxing?

Traditional wisdom would dictate that by sitting here writing my weekly update I’m not present. But I am and for me, this is as much leisure as work – I don’t feel that I’m relaxing any less than James who is sat beside me with The Times. We walked this morning, cooked on an open fire, found enough signal to reply to a few emails and now we’ve come out for an afternoon drink. We’ll be sitting round an open fire at midnight.

Does the fact that I’m willingly doing this detract from my ability to relax and recharge or even switch off? I’m unsure. This is the first holiday or prolonged period of time off I’ve taken in over a year and it’s great, but my work and life are balanced differently to most. I know I’m prone to suffer anxiety and occasionally exhaustion, but where to draw the line?

My friend Doug is approaching 200 consecutive days of meditation and half of me thinks I really need to follow his lead and learn to switch off completely. It’s such a hard thing to do and I have the utmost respect for his achievements. So, as I sit here officially on holiday, I’ll attempt to work out what represents “switching off”.

Here are the questions to ask ourselves:

  1. Am I working out of duty or because I want to?
  2. Is what I’m doing preventing me from being present, or interacting with my family?
  3. Do I have enough time in the day to just sit and take in everything around me?
  4. Do I feel stressed, or relaxed?
  5. Is there time to play?

Your answers should tell you everything you need to know about whether you need to stop, walk away and take time completely away from work to recharge, or if there’s enough balance between work and life to make sure that you don’t burn out and also give enough time to the right things on holiday.