At this time of year there is usually a lot of focus on activity. Whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution to exercise, a challenging goal to create something new, a round of home improvements or a big quarterly target to hit at work, there’s often a lot to be done in January and February.
We all know the power of an important goal. Who hasn’t felt the excitement of getting up every morning with your eyes on the prize and your day planned full of activity to get you another step closer to success? Even though it’s challenging, you can keep going for more hours than normal, your motivation fuelled by every sign of progress and your confidence soaring sky-high.
Goals are great. They inspire us to do more, be more, work intently and focus our energy.
Now let’s talk about that energy.
How many days in a row can you get up an hour earlier than normal and work 10% more intensively than normal? 7? 10? 28? More than that? When did you last put it to the test?
The point is, few people can go on indefinitely. We all need to stop and breathe at some point. Then, having paused for rest and collected out thoughts for a while, we surge on again.
With large projects and long-term plans it’s common practice to identify ‘milestones’ and give each a deadline. It’s occasionally mentioned that it might be a good idea to ‘celebrate success’ but mostly the achievement of a milestone simply means we’re on to the next phase.
Imagine what it would be like if each milestone achieved meant a break from the activity? I’ve often heard it said, “Even God rested on the seventh day”. Does your weekend mean it’s time to relax and recharge your batteries after a busy week, or is it the signal for a frenetic two days of household chores, visiting friends and family, taking the kids to out-of-school activities and catching up on your email?
If you wanted to make a New Year’s Resolution you could do well to resolve to plan your ‘downtime’ as well as you plan your workload. By building in time to relax, holidays at strategic points in the year and regular ‘time out’ sessions to gather your thoughts and refresh your plans, you increase your chances of success significantly. You also make it easier to maintain good health and reduce the chances of succumbing to the adverse effects of stress.
Without making a choice about when to stop and rest, when to stop and review, when to stop and celebrate, you are, after all, little better that the hamster on the wheel. And the average life expectancy of a hamster is only about 2 years – which I suspect is akin to the amount of time anyone can keep relentlessly pursuing goals without any time off!