when i’m done.

by Liz on 07.05

I have this faulty mindset that busy-ness is short-lived. That tomorrow I’ll wake up and everything on my to-do list will be finished and I’ll have nothing to do but take a bubble bath and eat something decadent.

Because of that, I have a nasty habit of leaving things for, “When I’m done.” When I’m done catching up on painting, THEN I’ll pour myself some coffee. When I finish clearing my inbox, I’ll take that shower. When we get these projects off our plate, we’ll take a day off to relax. But it never happens, because I always find one more thing to do and then suddenly it’s 1am and time to go to bed and, ugh, at this point I don’t even WANT to shower because I’m so exhausted.

It’s a good and bad thing, at this moment when being busy signals working which means bill paying. Busy is good.

Also, busy is necessary to get these things off the ground. Starting a business takes work. You can’t make a logo, throw up a website and then sit around waiting for things to go somewhere. So, we’re busy.

I had a recent epiphany that maybe, just maybe, “When I’m done,” isn’t a time in the foreseeable future. That maybe there will always be a to-do list, (hopefully) always a new project, and always one more email to send.

So. Time to relax is now, right?

We’ve spent the last few weekends weekending. Which is amazing. I highly recommend using a weekend as it’s intended. We don’t forbid working on weekends (as I know some freelancers do), but instead organize the week so that we have the weekends off, if we want them. If we feel like sketching and coding, so be it. But if not, we’re free to enjoy waking up late and wandering to get coffee and splashing in a kiddie pool.

I haven’t stricken, “When I’m done,” from my vocabulary, but I’m trying to use it differently. It’s admittedly hard when you’re facing financial struggles. Working makes money, and money is what we need. Taking a break has an added strain of guilt because maybe if we just worked more we’d be able to afford rent and groceries and car insurance. But that gets to a point of absurdity. If I take five minutes to have a hot shower, or hop up for the brief time it takes to pour some coffee, will that really make a difference? Probably not. I’m trying to find that balance of being driven and allowing myself to, you know, be human.

Any ideas how a person does that?

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katie says:
Jul 5, 2012 8:56 am

I know exactly what you’re talking about, though mine often takes the form of, “I’ll be happy when…” which is perhaps more horrible, the assumption being that happiness can’ happen in conjunction with all the busy-ness. Thanks for the reminder that it’s never going away – our job is to grab happiness and coffee (sometimes directly correlated) when we can!

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Rachel T. says:
Jul 5, 2012 9:15 am

Yep, but I do mine with “when I’m thin” as well. Regardless of our choice of when statements, I think your point of a sort-of carpe diem is important. We can’t miss out by constantly pushing things off, though of course that is something we have to do some of the time. None the less, it’s important not to constantly push off until later, but, as you said, find a balance. I think that’s what I’m always working toward – finding a balance – in whatever I do, whether it’s between too much play and not enough work (as a teacher, this is my guilty issue in the summer!) and then too much scheduled and not enough time to relax (my during the year issue – haha). Balance balance balance! If you find some super secret and amazing solution, let me know. :)

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Sheryl says:
Jul 5, 2012 4:40 pm

I used to say that to myself all the time, and I think it may have been one of the most destructive statements I have ever made to myself, the suggestion that all good things in life would wait until I was thin.

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Emilia Jane says:
Jul 5, 2012 9:34 am

YES! I need to stop putting things off for when I’m less busy….it will never end.

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Erin says:
Jul 5, 2012 9:37 am

I won’t claim to be as busy as you guys are, but we’ve also been learning the skill of taking time off, and of leaving things undone — for the moment. All I can suggest is make yourself the damn coffee now, take a breath of fresh air right when you think of it. Everyone needs to refill those wells that get drained with work, especially creative work. Just doing it becomes a habit, and you come back to your work with so much more from just ten minutes of doing so much less.

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liz says:
Jul 5, 2012 10:03 am

That’s exactly how I’ve been trying to think of it! In the moment, it may seem like a waste of time to go take a walk, shower, whatever, but when I come back I’m so much more productive.

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my honest answer says:
Jul 5, 2012 10:05 am

Oh yes, I know this one! The irony is that when I actually stop -doing- I usually have my very best ideas. This morning I somewhat of a business epiphany. Where? In a hospital waiting room where I was forced to sit for over an hour, with just a notebook for company. No laptop, no iphone, just me, writing out what was going on, and what needed to be improved.

Long story short: taking a break is important! Not just for your own well-being, but to give you enough room to create new ideas for your business. So go get that cup of coffee – guilt free :)

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Catherine says:
Jul 5, 2012 10:48 am

Yes. This post is great. I definitely have trouble taking breaks. I work all day at my corporate job and then go home to work on my own business. It is really hard to relax because I feel like I should be working on something. If I am watching TV I will be sanding at the same time. And once I get starting on something I won’t want to stop until I finish it. And because everything always takes way longer than I think; oops it is 2am I better go to bed. I need to work on taking small breaks like you are saying. I think just standing up, stretching my legs and stepping away for a minute can make a big difference. And alleviate leg cramps.

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lyn says:
Jul 5, 2012 12:46 pm

If you find out, pass them on to me?

Since I was a kid, I always had this personality where I wanted to get my work and chores done first so I could play later guilt-free. In adulthood, however, you’re never done. Ever. And it’s really hard for me to disengage. And I get irrationally angry whenever I read someone’s post about laying on the couch all day or watching movies all night after work, and I find myself snarking wish I had it that hard. But really, I’m doing it to myself. I’m the one who won’t put the damn laptop down. And I push myself so hard to be continuously trying to DO something that my attempts become ineffective. Task end up taking me way longer than they could have because I do them halfheartedly. My goal is to build discrete downtime into my day, because otherwise I’m just a burnt-out shell.

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Anjoli says:
Jul 5, 2012 7:55 pm

Ok, so it’s no mystery that I read your writting and it has helped me to stay grounded over here in lonely NYC. But this one takes the cake for me. When I read this it was sooooo me. Taking this time to develop a new craft, teaching, and learning to live with a man I love, but don’t necessarily like every moment of the day, has been a huge change of pace for me. I’m so use to having the 4 or 5 jobs at a time to just keep my pace up and always working.

Learning to let the dishes go undone, or leave the laundry for the next day has brought spells of anxiety, and at the end of the day he goes to bed just fine and I’m the one all wound up making myself worry about completeling a to-do list that never ends.

With that confession out of the way, I have to admit that at times when I do let myself have a lazy day it’s the most delightful day of the week!

It always brings me back to that moment in Eat, Pray, Love, in the barber shop in Italy when they say that Americans don’t know how to let themselves deserve a break, but Italians have mastered that art of doing nothing. :)

It’s a beautiful thing I’m soon ready to dive into, the art of doing nothing. It’s funny I had to come to the city that doesn’t sleep in order to discover that deliciousness though!

Thank you Liz for posting your honest moments and discoveries, like I said they keep me company and keep me grounded in this busy city!

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