About seven weeks ago I had minor surgery to remove some pre-cancer cells. Following that procedure I had some time off my day job for recovery. It feel near a weekend and a public holiday, so I ended up with about a week at home.
Of course me being me, I wrote a master list of all the things I could get done in my time "off".
It may not surprise you to know that self care, relaxation and recovery were not on my list.
Frequent readers might remember that shortly following/during all this I found myself with an almost unbreakable headache.
The result of which, apparently, was STRESS. Apparently I hadn't been completely honest with how I was coping with everything.
Upon doctor's orders I booked in a week of vacation time from my day job. A week to "take it easy" and relax.
I spent the week leading up to my "vacation" working flat stick to make sure all loose ends were tied up, and I tried really hard to not fill up my week "off" with stuff.
When I looked at my diary, it made me feel really nervous.
I had an empty week for stress leave and I was getting anxiety about it.
I mean, dude. Seriously?
What did I do? I made plans. Oh, and lists. Boy did I write lists.
On the first day I ran a workshop in the morning and entertained friends in the afternoon. On my second, I received three phone calls and nine text messages from the person covering me at my 9-5. I started writing more lists.
I went to the doctor, I did Christmas shopping, I had a dentist appointment and a land sales consultation. I ironed at least half my wardrobe and filed approximately 18 tonnes of paperwork. And on Tuesday I fell into bed with a thumping headache and the chilling fear that a week wasn't going to be long enough.
The next day I stayed in bed and watched DVDs. And felt awful. My brain burned with all the things I "should" have been doing. I felt almost paralysing guilt about all the things I wasn't crossing off my dang list.
But I watched TV for a whole day. I was completely burned out. I ate junk food and I made mess and I felt, well ... crappy!
But I was starting to get it. So I made a plan (HA!).
I pulled out all my lists and wrote one MEGA MASSIVE list of ALL the things I ever needed to do. And then I broke it into categories:
- Time sensitive
- Stress Free
Next I spaced them out to a couple of things a day. Looking at the list rationally, there were, in fact, very few things that ABSOLUTELY MUST be done NOW!!! I got some of them done pretty easily, and even more of them dropped off the list because once I looked at them from a calmer place, I realised they could wait. Or even (gasp) never happen. And that'd be fine.
For the rest of the time I just went along with whatever I felt like doing. I owned and enjoyed my choices, without planning anything other than maybe what I'd do next. When spontaneous opportunities came up, I said "yes".
And oh, man, it was so great. Crazy, at times ... I watched far more Sons of Anarchy in a single sitting than is probably recommended for good mental health and ruined a great pair of suede boots with some impromptu gardening ... but wonderful.
Here's the strangest thing: I went back to my 9-5 today, and looked at the list I'd written on my last day there, just over a week ago. At the time it felt appropriate, and then on that guilt-day it was overwhelming and nuts.
And today, I crossed off about 90% of it - I'd done almost all of the things on that list, without even realising.
Once I'd let go a little, without pushing and trying, I'd become super productive.
I'd moved from doing to being .... and go a shitload done in the process!
What I experienced was balance, and flow. Scheduling in some things to get done, and allowing space around them for things to just happen. A more gentle way than run run run - burn out .... run run run .... TV-fest.
So my lesson that I'd love to pass on - as a bonafide list master - is go ahead and write your lists and make plans - but with these two rules:
- use the list to get the stuff out of your head, not to judge yourself against
- and leave room in those plans to breathe ... leave room in your plans for life.