I like to think of myself as a highly productive person, and by many measures I am. I don’t waste time very often. Even my break time is spent productively, reading books or watching movies I believe are in some way important. I learn constantly, I work constantly, I produce constantly.
But sometimes I find that for all of my production I am not actually producing anything of note. I write every day, but can go days or even weeks without working on a specific book or play. I read everyday, but still only manage a few pages at a time. The truly awful thing is that sometimes I’ll even manage to rest in an unproductive way. I’ll listen to an intense podcast while on lunch break and end up going through the motions of taking a break yet feeling no restorative effects.
These are not constants of course, but when my incredible productivity hasn’t produced anything for several days or weeks, I can feel it. I feel it every time I sit down, every time I get home. I stare at my computer with a sense of hopelessness. I realize that I’m about to expend effort and achieve no satisfying result. Even though the majority of my work both at home and in the office is self-generated and self-managed, somehow I’ve managed to make it unfulfilling.
I know what I ought to do in such times. I ought to take a break – a real break. I ought to stop all my normal routines and just waste time for a day or two. I ought to do a full reset. Turn it off and on again like a malfunctioning computer.
I don’t take vacations like I should. I think it’s because I know that even if I had a day where I truly took a break from everything else, I would still think. I would still know all the things I am not doing. I would still know all the things I want to be doing. And I would grow impatient with my vacation. I would want to get to work on something – anything – to feel like I’m being productive. I must learn, I must work, I must produce. It is my natural resting state.
In the end, the thing I struggle with is learning to let go of possibilities, and forgiving myself for not going after them. There are so many things in the world that fascinate me, so many things I want to do and know, that I will always have to say no to what I want more often than I get to say yes. I make lists all the time. I make lists of languages to learn, books to read, TV shows to watch, skills to acquire. I’m constantly re-writing my goals in hopes of one day figuring out how I’m going to accomplish them all in the one short life I have available. This means sometimes I fall so much in love with the the What and How of doing that I forget about the Why.
I booked a vacation for February. I’m going to Holden Village, a retreat community three hours out of town that you can only get to by boat. I’m told that the winter community is small, and there’s a good chance that my aversion to cold will keep me bundled up in my own room the whole week. They cook all the meals and there’s no access to the internet. Hopefully it will be the kind of reset I’m looking for, and a chance to forgive myself for only having 24 hours in a day. At very least, I’ll have plenty of free time to make more lists.