Changing Paces

tortoise > the hare.
Credit: flickr / Sang You

I’m a little… tired and uninspired lately. Not at work – but at not-work. Once home, I’m not driven to write, or code, or read that stack of papers. I’m actually reading novels. I’ve been beating myself up for procrastination. Wondering, how do you tell the difference between being a little burnt out and needing a break, and procrastination. My inner dialogue is arguing with itself about whether I’m genuinely tired and in need of a break, or in the throes of procrastination so deep that I’m developing involved reasons and stories for not-doing stuff, rather than constructive procrastination, or better, just getting shit done.

How could I spend a day curled up on my sofa with not one, but two novels? How could I read four novels in a week? A deadline is heading towards me and I’m just looking at it with interest, wondering, idly, when inspiration will hit – rather than going and seeking it out.

The pace of my life is different now than it used to be. In school, there were always periods of intense activity punctuated with crashes which I would spend consuming novels, or TV box-sets, or both. It was a series of sprints, and every few weeks or months I would crash, and regroup. Normally once at the end and once during each semester.

Now, my life is more like a marathon. And whilst over-achieving-productive-Cate yells at human-Cate “how could you just do nothing all weekend?!?!“, human-Cate responds – “because sometimes I need to do nothing!

This week, I’ll give my 4th and 5th talks of the year. It will be my 5th trip this year. I’ll also host the first Girl Geeks KW. I’ve submitted a conference paper – twice. Since getting my Kindle in December, it tells me I’ve read 14 non-fiction books, plus a couple of physical ones (and 32 novels, most of them on planes). Maybe this is a normal amount of stuff to do on top of 40-50 hours a week at work, but I’m starting to feel like I’m planning sprints, but never allowing myself to crash – my baseline is now 40 hours at the office, whereas the baseline in grad school is nothing. I got sick twice this year, once with a week-long temperature, and once with a throat infection. During the first I spent one afternoon home sick.

For a while, I wondered if the problem was getting dressed every day – some of my most productive days used to be spent in my pj’s, but even if I didn’t work to draw lines around my day it seems insane to work from home when the office is one block away and so awesome, whilst my apartment is not set up for working, and also never contains any food (to be fair, I do see some people in the office in the pjs on occasion, but I don’t have the nerve). But perhaps the problem I’m having is adjusting to this new pace of life.

I’ve been thinking about sustainability, rather than balance. When I consider sustainability, apparently I don’t consider my need to sometimes do nothing. I’m going to have to figure out how to factor that in. At work, I tried blocking off a week that said “DNS – Cate is Anti-social“. It was a useful experiment that I’ll likely repeat. Can I do some equivalent for my personal life? Like a “No commitments, Cate is reading novels” weekend (or week!) a month?

Sustainability is a work in progress, and a constant balancing act. But – at least I’ve moved from novel-reading to structured procrastination. That’s progress, I guess.

2 thoughts on “Changing Paces

  1. I would like to celebrate your choice to sit on the couch and read novels. I dream of that day sometime in the future when I too can read all day, switching from coffee to wine as the book goes on and on. There is something so important about absorption in the world of a good book. Reading in that totally absorbed way is a work-out for the imagination.

    1. My mom and I were talking about taking a day off a week. It sounds ridiculous, but I try and plan the thing that I will do in order to not try and be productive – novels are the best. I just need to buy one on Amazon and start reading, and doing nothing follows easily 🙂 I hope you get a day with a good novel soon!

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