I’ve been feeling rather productive in my work lately, but contrary to what you might expect, it is not because I’ve been doing more. In fact, I’ve been doing less. And giving myself permission to stop.
In the past, you see, I didn’t allow myself to ‘stop’. I did, of course, stop, but in my mind I always thought I could and ‘should’ be doing more. So whenever I wasn’t working or studying, I felt guilty for, what I thought was not doing enough and falling behind. At the most unhelpful point of this ‘pushing through’ cycle, I would mentally stop (aka disengage), but would physically continue going through the motions of trying to get more done. Needless to say, it was exhausting.
I think the concept of allowing ourselves to stop is particularly applicable to those of us who are self-employed or self-guided in their work, study, business, or creative pursuit. There’s a never-ending stream of tasks to be done and no one else is telling us to do them. Sure there are deadlines, but for the most part, the day-to-day work load and work schedule are malleable and self-imposed.
Once I had learned to tell the difference between resistance and setting myself unrealistic and unmanageable goals (which by the way often go hand in hand), it’d become a lot easier to stop when wanted to, and most importantly, when I needed to.
Curiously, learning to stop has made the work itself more enjoyable (because it didn’t have to be endless), and allowed me to properly switch off from work mode when I’d done enough or when I was no longer being productive (which by the way is an essential part of self-care to prevent burnout).
The thing is – there will always be work to be done.
And sometimes, when you finish a project or get an important task done, it can feel amazing and you might be tempted to use this burst of energy to keep going. But instead of jumping straight into more work, and the next task, and the next project, see if it might be a good time to honour your work and effort by allowing yourself to stop.
And to relax.
And to do something fun or enjoyable for the next hour, or the rest of the day, or the rest of the week.
Whatever feels good and nourishing to you.
Because you deserve it!
And because it is up to you to set and stick to that boundary, and to treat yourself with the same respect, admiration, kindness, and compassion that you would treat someone who’s working their bottom off to get to where they want to be.
It is up to you to give yourself permission to stop.