When I went to the office every day for ‘work’, I usually felt a constant ‘time-stress’. Every activity was logged in my mind according to the amount of time it required. I had a mental balance sheet that ran continuously throughout the day and logged small things and bigger things — getting a cup of coffee, opening and responding to an email, returning phone calls, hosting events, preparing for and chairing meetings, writing reports and interacting with colleagues. For most of the activities there was uncertainty as unpredictable occurrences in child protection often caused daily/weekly plans to be shelved in response to urgent situations with government or media that required immediate response.
Research on stress has shown that uncertainty is one of the biggest causes of stress. The lack of control that results from random and unpredictable events made dealing with daily stress a challenge during my work life. Managing crisis situations, managing a huge workload, and managing high expectations of a member based organization took its toll. I often blamed myself for having poor time management skills and for placing overly high expectations on myself and on staff members.
In retrospect, time became my enemy. I often sang versions of the the ‘not enough time’ blues to myself and to those who listened to me. Getting to this stage happened gradually. I remember in grad school joking with fellow students in the MBA program that the difference between an A and a B paper was 20 hours of research and writing time. As I moved into more senior executive positions, I learned how to manage time for projects, how to meet deadlines, and how to allocate sufficient time to get the job done. This sometimes happened at the expense of personal and family time and that is when I began to feel more and more time deprived. My mind began to log tasks by minutes, hours and days. I was often resentful of ‘time wasting’ meetings and I often my days were filled with time stress anxiety.
A wonderful aspect of the postworksavvy lifestyle is that time is becoming a friend. This has been a gradual process. I am beginning to realize the importance of regular patterns of sleep, a healthy diet and consistent physical activity in achieving control of time. Enjoying a leisurely cup of tea, having time to sit outside in the fall sunshine, and goofing off long enough to refresh my mind are daily luxuries. Interestingly, I am less inclined to procrastinate nor to be distracted nor to multitask. Admittedly, I do fall into previous patterns and sometimes find myself rushing to complete a task or getting annoyed at my husband as he takes his time with his own activities.
The transition from time as my enemy to time as a friend will proceed at its own pace. Letting go of the old habit of logging the minutes and hours needed for various activities requires a conscious effort but the reward is a calmer and more orderly lifestyle. Learning to stop multitasking and to focus on the activity at hand is another habit that I am slowly breaking. All of this amounts postworksavy — less rushing around and a deeper enjoyment of the blessings of each day.