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Hey folks! It’s been over a week since I last posted, but I promise you, I didn’t disappear (thanks for the emails though! If you ever feel like checking in beyond the blog itself, you can usually spot what’s stealing my attention on Instagram). I didn’t really intend on taking a full week away, but my excuse was a pretty good one:
In short: for the last two weeks, I took a vacation. As in, not an I’m-merely-blogging-from-somewhere-else type of deal, but a full on break — from blogging, from writing, from answering emails (um… or I tried as much as possible), from other work, etc. My two-week road trip was spent hopping around Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., and a few other hot spots to meet a guy’s family (and friends… and extended family), hit the beach, and mainly just focused on having a little fun, eating way too much grilled food, and getting some pretty gnarly tan lines. Charlie came, too!
For my troubles, I also got a sinus infection, because my body clearly doesn’t know what vacations are for.
Given my usual compulsive workaholic habits, it was quite an adjustment — and even felt like I was forcing myself to do something unnatural. It sounds weird to say (probably especially for you non-US readers), but after blogging pretty much nonstop since 2010, telling myself not to give in to “Mount Inbox” was hard. I even tried to continue posting the first week (and did, as you guys saw with my new DIY air conditioner screen and getting your advice on built-ins), but thanks to a supremely lousy internet connection at “the river house” (where we spent a good amount of our time, and where the images in this post were taken, and also a new phrase I’d never really heard of prior to this trip), I was forced to step back and ask myself: why can’t I just stop — for a second — and really relax?
I could have scheduled a few more posts, and even tried to do that, but in the weeks leading up to this trip, I was already spinning more plates than I could handle. For someone who has blogged about time management and been consistently told that I seem to have my life together, it was time to admit: my ego — not my ambition — was part of the problem. And I was getting tired. Thinking I could both get ready for the trip, handle my current work/blog obligations, and get ahead of schedule enough to have two weeks’ worth of new content was pure arrogance, plain and simple. Before I knew it, I was in the car and my laptop firmly packed out of the way. I had utterly failed at my goal. And? I think I needed to.
It’s not that I haven’t taken time off and done a little traveling before. I’ve taken weekend trips to the beach. I’ve got a consistent social life. I’ve even managed to even pluck a little time out of my normal routine for a love life this year (I know I haven’t dished a lot about that yet, but it’s new and oversharing on someone else’s behalf is new-ish territory for me, so I’ll get there). But what I haven’t done is stepped away — completely — from design, blog, emails, etc. for a week or more. I had to learn to disconnect and stop being “too busy”.
A Little Word That Means a Lot
Here’s the thing about that word, busy: I realized that partly after
reading skimming through articles like this one (because I was too “busy” to read the whole thing, obviously) that I abuse that word. Its use in my life is a kind of weird, self-fulfilling thing (is that meta, or just irritating?). But it makes me feel good to say that I’m “busy” or to chime in agreement with my friends when they claim to be (“How are you? Oh yeah, I’m crazy busy too!”). And it’s total crap, because I really just sound more like the White Rabbit from Alice In Wonderland.
I read constantly, but I read relatively few articles that really strike me in their earnestness, and they are usually limited to musings from fellow bloggers I regularly follow (Kit is one of them, and in a completely unrelated note, I’m hoping to start planning another trip to her farm soon!). But sometimes they really make me want to try things out from a new perspective. This one about “the art of not giving a f*ck” is one of my favorites, and I have recommended it to many of my friends (warning: for those of you who will burst into flames if you read foul language, I recommend not clicking — but for the rest of you, it’s worth a glance!).
Anyway, about a week before I embarked on my trip, I got sucked into an article rabbit hole (pun intended?) and read multiple posts about the topic of being busy, why the word is a trap, and more (here, here, here, etc.) I started to see if taking some of the advice in this whole not-using-the-b-word mindset could do me some good. My main goal was just to try it out and see if it could make me feel less stretched and tired, and possibly help to reduce the urgency of work while I was away. The first week was tough, but by week #2, I was seeing how some of their tips could actually make a positive difference.
Stop Using the Word “Busy”
The concept is pretty simple: try to eliminate “busy” from your vocabulary for at least a month. I took that to mean synonyms too (“swamped” and “crazed” were also out). What it did was force me to be more cognizant of how I was describing my activities to others. This especially changed for the better with blog sponsors, design clients, and friends, because it allowed me to still express my exhaustion but gave me more transparency — something I’m always trying to accomplish (instead of just “I’m busy until X date”, it became “I took on too much this month” or “I’m trying to stay away from my inbox while I’m out of town, and I could really use the mental break… so if you wouldn’t mind following up with me next week when I get back, that would really help me.”). The best part is, I got a lot of positive response. I know that the people who seem to hound me have their own schedules and demands to meet, and perhaps the collective urgency is something we all need to re-examine.
Turn Off Notifications
I’ve got a small problem with the little red alert bubbles on my phone — if they’re there, I click on them. At first, it always seems like something I can do “real quick”, but that instead turns into fifteen minutes or more of wasted time (something catches my eye, something needs a response, etc.). So for a week prior to my vacation, I challenged myself with turning them off, cold turkey. On top of that, I also took the icons from my home screen and moved them into their own grouping on a separate “page” on my phone. That way, to get to email, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter — my biggest daily distractions — I had to make a more deliberate effort. It worked; I checked each of them less and spent fewer moments trying to get myself back on task, which made the week leading up to my road trip a really productive one (and has made subsequent weeks easier, too).
Stop Multi-Tasking; Value Idleness
Oh, man. This is probably one of my biggest struggles. I pride myself on trying to squeeze every last drop out of idleness when I work on projects. For example, while I was waiting on the glue to dry for my A/C screen, I grabbed a can of spray paint and started working on a project I’m installing in the kitchen. While both were drying, I snapped pictures of the bamboo in my yard and how I’m getting rid of it. But the thing is, a vacation is kind of what idleness is all about. In fact, after spending just two days doing nothing, I kept feeling like there was something I was flaking on. What if everything fell apart while I was gone? Was everything really that fragile? That feeling eventually went away (I’ll get to this whole idea in its own post someday), but it almost made me laugh about how long it was taking for me to get used to relaxing.
It’s been a little less than a week since I’ve been back from Virginia, and I’m still trying to apply some of these ideas — after all, there were plenty of emails waiting for me when I returned! But the strange thing is, I felt far less urgency than I have in quite a while, and I think some of it has to do with these tiny, unimpressive changes. We’ll see if they all stick for the long haul (I’m not holding my breath on the multi-tasking thing), but I’m glad I feel less anxious and yet have still been just as productive. If you have your own tips on eliminating busyness, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
There’s more to come this weekend & next week: the posts I meant to have ready during that time will make their appearance soon, and I first want to give you guys a full recap of the vacation (Richmond, DC, Virginia Beach, etc.). Charlie will get her own separate post because everything she did was hilarious — especially her experience with the beach!