I recently wrote about time management, saying I like to do as much as I can, when I can. Life is unpredictable, and I need the security of knowing I’ve built in some emergency buffer. Focus is also easier when there’s a ticking clock—kind of a short-term version of deadline pressure—or when I know I only have to sit there for a little while.
But there’s a danger. It becomes all too easy to jump on every pocket of time in a furious scramble to stay on top of a front-loaded project plan. Work hours bleed into the evening and long into the night, and suddenly burnout looms.
So how to find a balance? Doing as much as you can when you can is great, but there’s a corollary: When you can’t, don’t.
Can’t is deliberately broad. If you’re so bleary-eyed the words are swimming off the page and seem like a foreign language, you can’t. You can’t when you are having computer problems, or when you’re waiting on files from a client. But if you’re cooking dinner or walking the dog, you also can’t. You can’t when you’re having lunch with a friend or partner, or when you’re in a meeting. So don’t.
We all know multitasking—at least doing two or more tasks that require the same part of the brain, like having a phone conversation and writing an email—is ineffective and leads to decreased performance and fatigue.
So when you put your work away, whether it’s for an hour or for the day, really put it away. Practice mindfulness. Pay attention to the colors and scents of your dinner, to the story your child is telling you. Lose yourself in a great book or movie—and don’t think about your project. You’ll enjoy your down time more, and when you return, you’ll have more energy and enthusiasm if you’ve taken a real rest (surely I’m not the only one who’s woken up exhausted after dreaming that I’ve been indexing?).
If that’s difficult, remind yourself you’ll be back at your computer soon and can think about it then. After all, you’ve built that time into your schedule. Johnny Cash famously added “worry” to his to-do list (but only at #8), and writer Gretchen Rubin talks about the happiness benefits of scheduling time to worry. Of course, there’s my favorite, Toad from Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together, who is lost when his list blows away. Since he can’t remember what was on his list, he spends the day with Frog, doing nothing. When you can’t, don’t.
Practicing mindfulness can help you enjoy your off time and it leaves you feeling refreshed; a nice side benefit is you’ll find it easier to be mindful at work, too, so you can really dive in and make the most of your time—and be back do doing as much as you can, when you can.
And of course, don’t forget that PI can help.
We all run into situations where we just can’t, but we have to. Authors and editors can turn to PI to meet indexing needs—even on a rush schedule. Associates can also turn to PI if they get into a tight spot. We’re happy to make sure the indexing is covered, and also happy to protect your ongoing relationship with your client. PI’s many talented, professional associates make it possible.