I find a lot of times I’m getting (and sometimes giving) conflicting advice on the internet. I understand that no one agrees on anything, and I even understand why that’s a thing. What works for others won’t necessarily work for you. Habits that one blogger thinks should be easy to pop right into my day are laughable in their difficulty.
The biggest conflict, so far as I can tell, seems to be the disconnect between holding yourself accountable for achieving certain results, and not being a workaholic crazy person. It doesn’t seem to matter if the person giving these conflicting suggestions are full time writers, parents or people with day jobs like me.
Here’s the problem, though. There’s not a fine line between self care and laziness, but it’s not exactly a four lane highway, either. The same could be said for the line between productivity and killing yourself.
I don’t think it’s a line any of us really know how to tread well. I’m prone to coming home from the day job and continuing to move until bedtime. If I’m not writing, I’m cleaning way longer than the fifteen minutes that FlyLady suggests. I’m finding myself trying to finish up just one more project before calling it a night. This is not okay, as I’m sure you know. Not only does it mean I’m cheating myself out of sleep, I’m also cheating myself out of family time and taking care of myself.
At the same time, I sometimes have days where I just crash. I mean, I fail to do anything productive. Weeks, like last week for instance, go by where I miss my time to get up, don’t hit my word counts, live in a messy house and don’t accomplish anything but keeping Netflix in business. Sometimes this is because I’ve burned myself out. Sometimes it’s because I’m having a lazy day, and that’s just the end of it.
Neither of the above situations is good, and I’ll bet they’re pretty familiar to you. So, how can you tell when you’re working too hard or just being productive? How do you know when you’re taking a needed break or flaking? As with most other self care issues, this is going to be largely personal. But here are some of my warning signs. Maybe they are for you, too.
These things never mean you’re lazy!
I want to get these out of the way first. My rally cry has been self care recently, and I never want to see anyone throw away their health for the sake of productivity. So if you’re doing any of these things, don’t feel bad. In fact, if you’re not doing these things, maybe you should be.
- Sleeping a proper amount of time. This might be seven, might be nine. I know some people don’t need as much sleep as others. I also know very well that you, if you’re an adult, know how much sleep you really need. I need eight, and any less than that will make for a crappy morning. If you need more than that, this doesn’t make you lazier or worse than me. If you need less, it doesn’t make you better. You need the sleep you need, get it.
- Meditation is something I started out feeling silly about. I started meditating after my first daughter was born, and I hated myself for it, at first. What the hell was I doing just sitting there when there was so much to do? It wasn’t until months later when I realized how much I needed that time with the quiet.
- Preparing a good meal, and eating it without work in front of your face. This has always been the rule for dinner, and I’ve started insisting upon it for all other meals as well. I used to write over lunch and breakfast, but I’m realizing that the scant work I get done isn’t as fulfilling. Furthermore, I need the break. Even when I’m just heating up noodles for lunch at the day job, I read or rest. I take my head out of everything I’m doing and do something fun.
- Whatever you do to get ready for the day. This includes hair, makeup and clothes. I know that there are a lot of unhealthy things that can go into worrying about your appearance. But I also know that my day goes better if I like how I look. It’s not vain, it’s about confidence.
These things might be lazy, but might also be self care.
These habits can go both ways. Like everything else, moderation is key.
- Watching tv is one of the ways I relax. Yes, I read a lot, but sometimes I want to watch a show with my family. This is fine, so long as I keep it to when my work for the day is done. I don’t watch tv if I didn’t make my word count. But I won’t write more in the evening if I already reached my goal. That might mean I take a hit. I don’t care, no matter how many pages I get done I won’t bring back the cozy time I spend watching Grimm with my kids.
- Sleeping in is a rare treat that I afford myself once a week. And honestly, it’s not even really sleeping in. It’s just waking up at my normal time because my body’s betrayed me then laying in bed for awhile before getting up. When it happens more often, it means either two things. Either I’m getting sick and need more sleep, or I’m being lazy.
- Blowing off writing time to hang out with a friend. This doesn’t often happen to me, but it does sometimes. I have a list of things to do, but suddenly I’ve gotten an email from my friend who lives in another city. I drop that list like it’s on fire. If she lived in town, and I saw her more often, I probably wouldn’t do that. I would probably get more of a chance to see her, though.
These things are almost always lazy, stop kidding yourself.
This one is hard, because almost everything is an understandable indulgence. But there are some things that you just know you’re not supposed to do. Here’s a list of mine.
- Procrastinating without asking yourself why. I add without asking why, because sometimes procrastination is actually a warning sign that you’re burned out. It might also mean what you’re avoiding just sucks. In that case, ask yourself if it needs done. If not, take it off of your list with no guilt. If it needs done, just do it.
- Tv during your prime time is another big no no, with the exception of sick days.
- Not planning your time, though, is my idea of the worst thing you can do for yourself, and the only good reason is that you don’t understand what it will do for you. You must not think that planning your month, week and day so that you don’t miss appointments, aren’t late for things, and are prepared for upcoming deadlines is very important. I doubt you think that, but you’re wrong if you do. Just sit down and do it.
Please, I can’t say this enough, don’t take this as judging you, or how you chose to spend your time. We don’t have to be producing all the time. We are people first, writers after.