Tuesday, March 18, 2014

thoughts on productivity and taking a break

olympic break 2014
My view during Olympic Break: 
A creative and messy workspace, a quilt in progress, a dog butt, a fire, and the games on TV.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to take a different approach to tackling my business goals and scheduled out an entire year's worth of projects with deadlines, launch dates, and focus weeks all blocked in on my NeuYear Calendar with colorful labels and tape. I also blocked off weeks/weekends for vacation time, and scheduled a two week break in February, which I deemed my own personal Olympic Break.
The plan was to use the time to focus on personal projects and eliminate distractions. On February 7th, I deleted Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from my phone. I stopped reading blogs. I set up a folding work table in my living room and another in my dining room. Larry was on a business trip, so I spent my days with my dogs, the Olympics, and my sewing machine as we were hammered with a February snowstorm. It turned out to be one of the best things I could have done for myself and the most relaxed and productive times in my life in recent memory.

I spend so much of my life staring at a screen - my computer, my phone, even being behind the lens of my camera - that I sometimes feel like I'm not really living my life. To be honest, once I got past the first two days of absent-mindedly picking up my phone and finding my finger instinctually going for the Instagram icon, I found I wasn't really that interested in social media anymore. My brain was no longer saturated with a constant deluge of information from blogs, Twitter, and Facebook and I could finally focus and concentrate without feeling overwhelmed. During the day, I worked on my projects. If I needed a break - those times I would usually glance at my phone - I sat down and read a book. I interacted with my dogs. I tasted my food. I looked out the window and appreciated the snow with my own eyes instead of looking at 20 photos in a row on Instagram of other people's snow-covered porch furniture.
olympic break 2014
And I found that once I stopped wanting to look at my phone, I stopped wanting to look at all screens. The thought of sitting down at my computer (the one that I've stared at all day for years) repulsed me. I wasn't reading blogs or social media, but I also had no desire to google anything or edit photos or even look at my computer. (Which is why it's taken me a month to finally sit down and write this blog post.) I didn't want to pick up my camera either - I wanted to savor real life. I wanted to experience without documenting. I was able to reclaim my headspace as my own.

During my two week break, I was filled with an almost manic energy. I woke up excited about my day, I went to bed fullfilled, I slept better than I have in years. There was a freedom to not caring what anyone else thought or what anyone else was doing. I focused on my own projects and I got stuff done. I wish I could bottle up the way I felt over Olympic Break and dole out the magic of those weeks throughout the year - a sip here and there to regain the productivity, drive, and peace I felt in my life.
olympic break 2014
When the two weeks were over, I logged into Instagram, added a few pics, and scrolled through my feed. I re-added the Facebook app to my phone and then promptly re-deleted it. I read a few of my favorite blogs to get caught up. But I found my productivity start to dwindle again and my anxiety start to increase. If these things are causing me so much stress...then why do them? Because as much as I needed a break from the world, I also love staying in touch with people. I love my family and friends and I love seeing what they are up to - their travels, the photos of their children, the things that are going on in their lives. I love connecting with people online. As a self-employed person who spends most of her day alone, opportunities to socialize are important to my sanity and survival. So I hate that the solution to being more productive and less anxious seems to be to become a hermit! (And surely this would slowly drive me crazy.) I need to find a way to balance productivity and socializing. I need to prioritize productivity. I need to prioritize myself, my family, and living and experiencing my own life.
olympic break 2014
It's obviously time for a change - a big one. It's time to schedule more time for myself. It's time to be deliberate and present. I'm not going to give up social media entirely or stop blogging because these things are important to me and have benefits, but I am going to be more deliberate about them. Maybe I'll only check social media and read blogs on Fridays - as a reward for a productive week. I'll take fewer photos but be more deliberate about what I photograph. My blog posts will be shorter (unlike this one) and focused on the important stuff. I'll share the highlights of my life. I'll share what's going on with my business (one of the founding reasons for starting this blog, which has seemed to go by the wayside). Less quantity, more quality. More focus. Keeping it up won't be easy, but now that I have a taste of the productivity that awaits, I hope to maintain my momentum.
olympic break 2014
And I have lots of things to share coming up - especially what I actually DID during my productive break and a whole bunch of new ideas for Funnelcloud Studio. But right now I'm more interested in actually working on them (and hopefully finishing them!) than photographing them. So stay tuned. Good things are coming.


Karin said...

People are always shocked when I tell them I don't have internet at home and I don't own an iphone. Besides the added expense (which I refuse to pay)- life is just simpler without these distractions. I do own an ipod touch, but it isn't constantly connected to the internet, so I have to deliberately go somewhere with free wifi if I want to use it. Of course there are pros and cons with this set-up, but I believe there are more positives than negatives. Glad you were able to disconnect and just be...although I did miss seeing you online! We need to plan an in-person catch-up session! :)

littlegreenfieldbook veronika said...

I totally know how you feel - I stare at a computer and/or am behind a lens all day, every day (it seems) so on weekends or during free time, the last thing I want to do is spend even more time in front of a screen or reading curated blogs or social media posts. For a long time I felt obligated to take and post photos -- b/c "that's what I do," but over time I've pared back. I write what I want to write. Take pictures of what I want to take photos of. And thought a lot about the "why" of doing things. Why blog? Why take photos? Why social media? Things I'm sure you've thought about as well.

There is a balance, and that's different for everyone. For me, I allow myself an hour a morning to catch up on blogs (of which very few I read anymore), *maybe* check Facebook, and scroll through IG. I like reading about other peoples' lives and connecting with them even just in a very tiny way. But I also recently (re)discovered the power of a long email, phone call, or even just a thoughtful conversation via IM. I didn't realize how much I missed those.