As I mentioned in my January in review post, the first month of 2019 was crazy, stressful, and challenging, although I ended the month feeling positive and ready to take on February. It didn’t take me long, though, to realize that I needed to rethink my plan for the month.
January’s insanity was ultimately overcome by massive expenditures of time and energy, with my productivity cranked up to eleven. At the beginning of February, I looked at everything I had recently accomplished and said, “Wow, look at me! I’m awesome. If I keep up this pace, I’m going to get so much done this month! I’m going to get ahead on everything, and maybe even take on some new projects.”
Then I immediately responded with, “Except that I’m so, so tired.” Not so much physically tired, but mentally and emotionally spent. Having spent several weeks trying to stay at high-octane, I suddenly found that I didn’t want to do anything. Obviously, I needed to do some reflection.
The first thing I did was remind myself that the pace I had set for the last few weeks of January (mostly in terms of work, but also in my personal projects), was born of necessity, not desire. I am something of a workaholic, and I like to be getting things done, but in January I went way beyond my usual pace, and it turned into a total slog-fest. So while it’s true that I could have accomplished a lot more in February, I knew that in the long run it wasn’t something I wanted to do, and ultimately wouldn’t be very good for me. In the end, I knew I needed to throttle back.
My goals for February, therefore, were very simple (and very different from the way I often tend to approach my life):
- Do enough work (at the job, with the blog, for other commitments) to maintain the appropriate level, and then stop. For one month, resist the urge to shoot for awesomeness at every moment. Do extra work only if the idea is actually appealing.
- Devote extra time to leisure activities. Spend at least an hour each day reading, instead of half an hour. Have breakfast with Mom and Dad twice this month, instead of just once. Have dinner with a friend. Watch at least two movies.
- Rest. Go to bed earlier, and listen to an audiobook if sleep doesn’t come right away. Stay in bed. Take naps if needed. Set the alarm for a little later every time it’s possible to do so.
- Set aside any negative thoughts about these things. If all else fails, think of it as an experiment, because experiments are productive.
It was an interesting month. I struggled with some of these goals, although not as much as I had expected, because I really, desperately needed to slow down. I’m certainly feeling recharged and in better shape than I was at the end of January, so that was a success.
Overall, though, I think in February I swung a little too far in the opposite direction. I would have liked to have accomplished more than the bare minimum, and some the things I put off are probably going to make March more hectic than I would prefer. What this month showed me, I think, is that I need to focus more on staying in balance day to day and week to week. Too much time pushing myself will naturally lead to too much time recuperating, and I’m not particularly content at either extreme. For March, I’m going to work towards considering the right balance for smaller chunks of time, while keeping a few of the monthly goals (specifically, an earlier bedtime and sharing meals with family and friends) in place.
Oh, and one other outcome: I did a heck of a lot of reading.
I started by finishing King of Scars, which I had begun at the end of January, and then read another twenty books in twenty-seven days. Seven of those were re-reads, and the others were new. I read during my first cup of coffee each day, while I ate lunch, while I waited for a doctor’s appointment or a meeting to start…just about any time I had a few minutes to spare. I used Kindle’s whispersync feature to switch to audio while I did the dishes and accomplished other tasks that didn’t require my higher brain functions, and before I fell asleep at night. Last weekend, I read two entire books on Saturday. Reading has always been one of my favorite activities, and for the past four weeks I fully indulged.
High point: Finally getting around to The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire, the first two books of John Scalzi’s latest sci-fi series. They were as good as I’d hoped they would be, and I’m looking forward to the third (and final) book next year.
Low point: Rachel Caine’s The Great Library series. This was another case where I wanted to like something more than I actually did. I can’t entirely put my finger on why this series didn’t work for me, but after reading the first book I almost didn’t read the second, and after reading the second I decided to move on rather than read books three through five. For whatever reason, I just wasn’t invested in the story enough to devote the time to finishing the series.
I have a really good feeling about March, with a lot to look forward to, including…
I’m so excited.
How was your month? What are your thoughts on self-care, priorities, work-life balance? Read any good books lately? Let’s talk.