Last week, I experienced the worst thing that could happen to any of us in this technological, wired age – my computer wouldn’t boot-up completely. After spending a few days trying to figure out what was behind this computer failure – a virus attack, a malfunctioning memory stick, or worse, a dying motherboard – I discovered the real culprit was the power supply unit. A quick trip to my preferred computer parts store (no big box stores for me thanks), and I got my computer back up and running – though with some other glitches that needed additional work in the days after.
Needless to say, this headache created its own share of problems, even though I was able to work off another computer while the other one was down. The biggest one was this urgent feeling that I needed to play catch-up; that since I hadn’t operated at my peak capacity the previous week, I had somehow fallen behind on work and such. Even though I intuitively knew that I had stayed on top of matters, I still couldn’t shake this feeling that I had to keep working so as to keep the beast at bay.
After giving this some thought, I realized what was behind this feeling of anxiety or pressure. Instead of taking breaks from work so I could relax or do something unrelated to my job, I was spending this time working on getting my main computer to work again. I did this not just because I missed working on my regular computer, but also so I get back into my technological comfort zone and feel like I was once again performing at my usual level of productivity. Although this expedited the process of getting my computer back to normal, it also nurtured this feeling that I couldn’t take a break; that I always had to be hooked up, reviewing this or working on that. And now, instead of taking a break in my work day to unplug, I’d be thinking about how I still needed to get certain tasks done, reply to those last three emails marked urgent, and chase up that person to get an update on the status of the project we’re working on.
But here’s an undeniable truth about humans – unlike computers, we can’t always be on. There are times where we need to disconnect ourselves from our work, from interacting on social media sites, or simply replying to emails and just give ourselves time to focus on something else. Sure this might sound counter-intuitive – after all, what if some opportunity presents itself and you weren’t there to jump at the chance? But by not giving ourselves time – to rest, to relax, or to simply enjoy the fruits of our labour – we’re actually doing more harm than good because we’re not giving ourselves the chance to catch our breath, so that we might take on these new opportunities with a fresh outlook, if not a rejuvenated pair of eyes.
As I’ve noticed in my own case, we also create this vicious cycle of feeling constantly on the run; that we feel like we’re chasing some finish line that can never be reached. Undoubtedly, such sentiments affect not only our perspectives, but our quality of life. Of course, this doesn’t mean we have to work less hours or even try to reduce the number of days we work. Sometimes all it takes is simply unplugging yourself for 10 minutes and just wandering away from your desk to see what else is going on around you.
I know I’m now keeping an eye on the clock – not so much to ensure I meet those deadlines or that I get one of those dozens of tasks completed in time. Instead, my focus on that clock is simply to make sure that I once again start making time . . . for myself.