I know you’ve got a resolution in the back of your mind. You’re thinking about tackling something this year. Maybe it’s big: A new job, a new career. Maybe it’s smaller: You’ll ask for a raise this year. Maybe it’s traditional: You’ll finally get in shape.
Before you do it though, consider giving yourself a break. This is the time of year I revisit a book called How to Be Idle, by British writer Tom Hodgkinson. His book is a “Loafers Manifesto.” We should nap more, work less, and most importantly, stop believing work will solve everything. Who thought of that anyway?
Here are a few ways loaf your way through the holidays:
Take a Nap
Hodgkinson likes a good nap, and really, who doesn’t?
“How much easier it is to work in the morning if we know we have a nap to look forward to after lunch; and how much more pleasant the late afternoon and evening become after a little sleep. If you know there is a nap to come later in the day, then you can banish forever that terrible sense of doom one feels at 9 a.m. with eight hours of straight toil ahead.”
We should do more of it. And then stay out later partying. See? This is a great book.
Want to maximize your napping potential? Calculate your most productive napping time.
Go on a Media Diet
This year I hit a sort of breaking point with the news and I had to take a break. I couldn’t take the bad vibes anymore, so I decided to cut back on my reading while keeping up with the main news of the day.
I subscribe to the New York Times, and read the daily summary in the morning and evening. I then do one check-in at the Washington Post. Then I go to a few happy places, either online or in real life to offset the feeling I’ve inevitably stirred up. Sometimes I go off the rails and read too much about a certain topic, and then I pace around in a frenzy for a while until the buzz wears off. It doesn’t solve anything, and it wears me out.
Here are some great tips on taking a media diet from the Columbia Journalism Review. They recommend asking yourself why you’re consuming a piece of news, what time would be best, and whether you want to act on it some way, by sharing or getting involved in the issue, for instance. Mindfulness is key.
Consider a Tech Sabbath
I’m going to put down my phone and close my laptop more often this year. I’d like to do this every day at a certain time, if possible, but I’m working up to that. In the meantime, I’m going to unplug on Sunday.
I just did this and I even though I’ve done it before, it’s amazing how calm I felt. When you’re plugged in, you can know anything, so you feel like you should have all the answers, right? What’s the exact temperature right now, at 6:32 p.m.? One degree lower than an hour ago? Wow, glad I spent a minute of my life waiting for the weird graphic depicting the Gulf Stream to load so I know that.
I’d add more to this list, but I’m feeling too lazy.
Really, Relaxing Can Be Productive
All of this idleness goes by another name. You can actually call it “reflection,” and it truly is productive. It’s often the missing ingredient in my clients’ lives. Frantic, busy lives lead us to staying on autopilot. That’s how we find ourselves in a company or job we hate for 5, 10, 15 years.
Reflecting. I vaguely remember what it is. It was this thing humans did once, before we were either working or consuming, earning money or spending, focusing on being more efficient, and side hustling and all the rest. Once upon a time, we sat and we had a good think. We stared at clouds. We digressed.
Reflection is not just a nice thing to do in life. It’s foundational to making those changes. Without time to dream, we can’t get started on a new life.
The painful fact is, if we’re busy all the time, we can’t determine what type of work doesn’t feel like toil. (We should use the world toil more often. Try busting it out at a holiday party. “I toil for Company X.”) Meaningful work is different for each of us. What worked for Uncle Bob, who is talking your ear off about going into the solar panel industry, isn’t necessarily going to work for you. So you have to pause and try to listen to your inner voice.
My Inner What?
Our inner voice, if we’ve been working away for decades, may barely be able to croak out what it wants. It’s like it’s been at a Rush concert for 20 years, shouting to its friend that it’ll be right back with that beer. You have to get very, very quiet to hear what it’s mumbling. You have to give it a moment to repeat itself sometimes. And then, it may say something crazy, like it doesn’t want to work this hard anymore for this little reward. It wants something better. Quality work, not quantity.
So slack off a little this holiday season already. Nap, turn off the phone and listen for some inner mumbling. You’ll be that much closer to your dream career. I want to do more of it this year. I might even make a resolution.