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Relaxing is hard work

Let’s talk about how much work it is to relax. 

As I write this blog, the video of the proverbial hamster on an exercise wheel is playing in my mind’s eye. You know, the one where the hamster just keeps going around and around and around. You know, kind of like how you feel at work sometimes? You get to the end of your day are wonder, REALLY wonder what you accomplished. Oh, you were busy, no doubt, but what did you check off of your to-do list that was important?

If you’re like some people, you wake up, maybe at the same time every day (or maybe not). You have a morning routine (or maybe not). You go to work (or maybe not). All day long you’re meeting with clients, organizing events, answering emails, fielding phone calls, directing others, (or being directed by others) and sometimes you feel like you can’t come up for air, for fear of missing out on something important. Sometimes the “urgent” gets in the way of the “important”, and you seem to be always putting out fires.

Sound familiar?

So what does it feel like to relax? Ahhh, you say it’s been so long you don’t remember? Yes, my clients tell me that. And I hear it too much. “I’m too busy to take time for myself”. “ I’m too busy to take time to plan.” (that one always makes me chuckle).

Relaxing doesn’t happen by default. No, I’m not counting the time you sleep as relaxing, although it should be. I’m talking about actually planning far enough in advance, so you know you have a day, or more, just for you.

What would that do for you? What are YOU doing to charge your batteries?

Let’s think about things that need to be recharged: cell phone, tablet, laptop, flashlight, cordless vacuum cleaner, fly swatter, car battery, smoke detector, corkscrew, Bluetooth speaker, screwdriver, you. Oh, did you catch that? YOU need to be recharged, just like all of the dozens of gadgets that many of us have around our homes and offices. (No, I don’t really have a corkscrew that needs to be recharged. Do you?)

When we recharge our own batteries we’re telling ourselves that we matter.

When we don’t take time, we’re telling ourselves that we don’t count. We’re telling ourselves that everyone else is more important than we are. We’re telling ourselves that it’s OK. We’re telling ourselves that if we don’t set an example for our kids it’s OK for them to repeat our patterns. It’s not OK. Not OK at all.

So, what’s the solution? Do the work so you have time to relax. I’m not saying you have to work harder before you relax, I’m saying I want you to work on planning to relax. Here’s how it should work: At the beginning of each week (that’s Sunday night for me), I look at my upcoming week, and make sure that things are fairly balanced:

·      Clients

·      Writing time

·      Emails/phone calls

·      Networking time

·      Speaking engagements

·      Lunch with a friend

·      Drive time

·      Mona Time

You get the picture. Notice I said, “here’s how it should work”? No, I’m not perfect. I sometimes get in over my head because I wasn’t proactively planning. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and I need to be ready to adjust on the fly. But rarely do I sacrifice “Mona Time”. I build it into my week. That’s where the hard work can come into play.

Sometimes I look at the blank pages in my monaplanner© and wonder what could happen if I didn’t plan my days or weeks. Then I remember what could happen: I won’t have time for myself. I won’t have time to relax…REALLY relax, like a planned day off, or even bigger – a real vacation. We have to work for these things. For most of us, they don’t “just happen”. Relaxing is hard work.

One of my taglines for the monaplanner© is “Plan Weekly – Focus Daily”. I do my best to live by that mantra. But planning for relaxation takes more than that. We need to look at more than a week at a time.

Think about this. You’ve finally saved the money to take the Alaskan cruise you’ve always wanted. You’ve worked diligently to make sure you have the necessary resources to do it. You’ve worked with your travel agent to find the perfect vacation package. Your family has made sure their schedules are clear so there are no surprises. You’ve made arrangements for a pet sitter for Rufus, your beloved beagle. The lawn care has been arranged, the mail is on hold, and close neighbors are notified. You’ve shopped for some new clothes, and repaired your well-worn suitcase.

The big things need to be planned more than a week in advance, like booking the cruise, and saving the money and scheduling time off. Think of those as the foundation to the rest of the planning. After that, the other plans can happen, right? A few weeks before the planned departure time, you can take care of the other tasks.

And what about our Daily/Weekly relaxation time? For me, it’s a daily meditation practice, first thing in the morning. It significantly increases my ability to have a great day. Do I have to work hard to make this happen? At the beginning, it was hard. Hard to give up other habits, like checking email and social media right outta bed. Another thing that was hard at first was giving up Sunday nights. Now it’s “Mona Time”, and I don’t engage with others after 6pm. It’s my time to reflect back on the past week, and get my ducks in a row for the upcoming week. Are there exceptions? Very few, and my friends and family know it.

What “hard work” do you need to be doing now, so you can relax?