Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like I was just slogging through the mud trying to get everything done, and never quite getting there. After a just so perfectly timed meeting scheduled for smack dab in the middle of the afternoon, I was left with a lot of work to do and a depleting pool of energy to draw from. By the time I was sitting outside in the early evening waiting for the bus to start the first leg of my commute, I felt out of it.
Once I got to my car the first thing I noticed was my packed gym bag in the passenger seat, holding not only my workout clothes but my noble intentions from this morning to exercise after work. I was paralyzed for all of ten seconds deciding if I was going to follow through before the phrase ‘Screw it’ not so subtly popped into my head, and I was on my way home.
Once I got there, it was all I could do to make dinner and then collapse on my couch, switching lazily between an episode of Friends and headlines on my phone. Not exactly how I was planning on spending my precious evening hours. I did feel like I salvaged some of the night by taking a nice, long bath and then writing in my journal for over half an hour in bed.
The whole night I felt caught between what I wanted to do, and what I feasibly had energy for. Even though I find myself in this predicament as my work responsibilities increase, it never quite ceases to amaze me how woefully unprepared I am some evenings after a long day at work.
Like many people I have a hard time tailoring my expectations to the current moment I find myself in. On one hand, I make plans with myself in the evening to workout, read, and often to do deep work writing my book, especially on the nights when my husband works late and I have the whole house to myself. Yet my body and mind beckon to just relax, take it easy, and lay on the couch playing with my dogs.
This imbalance often doesn’t get mentioned in much of the productivity literature. As long as you have a morning routine, drink lemon water, and don’t email after 7 pm, everything will work out but it isn’t quite so simple. Failure to take into account how you’re actually feeling as you’re going about your day and make necessary adjustments is partially responsible for increasing the level of fatigue because we’re human beings with circadian rhythms that frankly don’t care about productivity.
I knew I had an afternoon meeting that was more likely than not going to push some of my work for later in the day, when I am naturally feeling more tired. I could have taken a short stroll around the block, or stepped out for coffee before the meeting or right after and given myself a boost to finish my work without feeling half-dead instead of having to stay later than I intended. Instead I pushed on through, not because anyone made me, but because I compelled myself to. If we live our lives under the delusion that we will feel the same way at 9 pm than we do at 9 am, we will always hit the wall because it is just not sustainable, nor should we feel that it isn’t normal to sustain the same level of energy throughout the day.
I know one of my weaknesses is comparing myself to people that always seem to be on. If my girlfriends cousin who has three kids can manage to work a full day, go train for a half marathon in the evenings and still have enough energy left over to make cookies for the kids bake sale at school, then gosh darn it, so should I. The yardstick we use to measure ourselves is wholly inaccurate and doesn’t reflect what we could achieve if we took into account that we need breaks, and sometimes an evening to completely veg out.
My husband has point blank told me he doesn’t understand how I manage to balance so many different things, and yet more often than not it is I who feels guilty for underestimating my energy level and not completing everything I had set out to do. This entire blog is my experiment with a more holistic approach to energy management and learning to give myself the kindness and grace to ease up when I feel that I am taking on too much.
Even with things we want to do, if you fail to look at the big picture (and a week has 168 hours) you’re just setting yourself up for nightly dates with your couch and I for one want something more from my life.