Figuring out what the heck I’m doing
This, right now, is not so easy.
My job for the last 7+ years was not exactly an eight to five, but it did provide some structure. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I would sign into my computer. I would check my email, read my daily newsfeed, look at my calendar for the day.
I needed to be on for others during business hours. I needed to be in meetings and prepare for meetings, and – before COVID – travel to meetings. Some of this recurred regularly – once a week, once a month, once a quarter – which gave my life a rhythm.
Now though, I am rhythmless.
At least, I have few external cues to provide my life a rhythm. Regaining one must come mostly from me and – spoiler! – this is harder than it would seem. Having every day in front of you, to fill with whatever you wish, means you very well could fill them all with nothing.
The anxious part of me wants to avoid this awful fate. A little nagging voice says I must not waste my time here! I left behind a nice little life to do more of what I want, not less!
Another part of me, however, the part that I’ve learned – slowly, painstakingly – to allow its say as well, knows that forcing things is not the way, at least not for me. Especially when it comes to more creative pursuits.
This more gentle and much more compassionate voice understands that the rhythm that works for me is the one that is closest to my natural one. It is why I knew I wanted work that I could build around my life rather than having to force my life around my work.
It’s getting these two parts to work together that’s the trick of it all.
Because while listening to my anxious voice provokes the intrinsic motivation that I do sometimes need, my gentler voice is also aware that sometimes, to create something from nothing, you must – somewhat disconcertingly – “do” something that looks and feels like nothing.
You must do something not for what it will immediately accomplish, but for the opposite. Like reading a book or taking a walk. Observing or simply just sitting quietly to ponder.
Said another way, you must let go to focus, rather than the other way around.
And don’t just take my word for it – there is tons of advice out there that backs me up. Like these two great bits from a list I read just last week as if they were waiting to be found exactly when I needed them. (Isn’t it thrilling when that happens?!)
Anyway, here they are*:
Efficiency is highly overrated; goofing off is highly underrated. Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks, and time off are essential for top performance of any kind. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.
Productivity is often a distraction. Don’t aim for better ways to get through your tasks as quickly as possible, rather aim for better tasks that you never want to stop doing.
So, to honor this – or honour if you prefer – I explored beautiful Waterlow Park, home to the tomb of Karl Marx and a fifteen-minute walk from my flat. I tried while I was there, not to see just the park itself, but some of the little things maybe otherwise unnoticed.
And now, I share some of those little things with you.
This felt like a secret garden and an exciting find!
Randomly placed in a wall and easy to pass right by describes one of my absolute favorite things about London.
Funnily enough, on my walk meant to notice more, I was sitting right in front of this statue and hadn't realized it. I only turned around to see it when two others stopped to look at it.
So, ok, my noticing could use some practice.
Certainly not a view that would go unnoticed, but a highlight of the visit all the same.
This one I took on my walk home. I'd like to say I took it because I was deeply struck by the juxtaposition of growth and decay, but really, it's because I liked the colors.
~Shared in “A Newsletter from the Desk of Austin Kleon” May 6, 2022 Watering the Garden