Work. Life. Balance. Part 3 – Rest and Play
I used to like to say that I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Sometimes I wish I still had that same conviction. But cabin life in the winter does have a solid mellowing agent built into it. Around the cabin, rainy days and the long cold nights tend to find us sitting by the woodstove or lying in bed reading. Sometimes late into the night and sometimes we’re asleep before nine.
Because we can. Especially during periods of breaks from our day jobs such as the last couple of weeks. We find ourselves moving more to the cycles of the sun instead of the clock. Chalk one up for the agrarian life.
This doesn’t come naturally for me. I have to work at it. The Lady and I, as most of our family are doers by nature. Idle time seems like wasted time. Time we can be productive. Time we can get things done. But, what the ultimate effect of that is viewing the world as a never ending “to do” list that grows faster than it can be accomplished. This in the kindest form can be frustrating and in the harshest form, demoralizing. Bogged down in constant work ultimately causes two things. 1.) Burnout, which leads to 2.) Decreased productivity.
And so if we really want to be more productive, we have to be organized, we have to be systematic and we have to give ourselves time to rest and time to play. Thoreau once remarked that all too often a farmer is the last one to be able to see the beauty of his farm. When we don’t give ourselves a chance to step back, relax, go fishing, go for a ride, take some time off we start to lose the big picture of what it is we’re after in the first place.
In the classic book on self-sufficient living, The Good Life Scott and Helen Nearing realized for the very reasons I’m describing the need to break their day down into parts. Essentially, they spent half the day working to make a living and do chores around the farm and the other half they did whatever they wanted to do. If they wanted to work on a project, fine. Or if they wanted to sit and read a book, fine. The exception was the times of the year that the farm required full attention such as harvest or planting seasons. I’ve heard others make the same argument. Joel Salatin, whom I would classify as a workaholic has stated that no farm or ranch should require more than four hours of chores. The other half of the day should be dedicated to innovation.
I think they’re both right. My best days are when I get up early and knock out a lot of work before lunch and allow myself a slower pace in the afternoon. While it seems counter-intuitive, ultimately these are when I’m the most productive. The trick is being able to say “That’s enough for today.” My personality won’t allow me to sit around for half the day doing nothing even if I had the option. I need to be moving and mostly outside. But, if I wanted to throw a saddle on my horse and spend the afternoon riding in the mountains I should have that option available and I should regularly take myself up on it.
The fact of the matter is in this life we get to decide how it is that we will spend our days. But, if we’re not careful we can be harsher taskmasters toward ourselves than any manager could get away with. So learn to tell yourself no. Learn to take a step back. Learn to follow the rhythms of the sun and moon and learn to live a little better.
So in the meantime… live well… laugh often… love always.