As I struggled to get out of bed in vain, I stretched my arm to snooze the alarm for the umpteenth time, pitying myself at being too languid to turn up for work. Fatigued and achy from months of putting work before health, I called in sick but continued blaming myself for the unproductive day that lied ahead. I was clearly inching toward an inevitable burnout. I worried incessantly about all the deadlines I would miss that day and about having to face the chill wind of the hiatus once I got back on my feet.
That was me a few weeks ago on a Friday morning right before the Christmas holidays. Had it not been for that day, I would have thought that my mind and body had gotten used to the fated predictability of my work day, the impossible multitasking and the workload that barely afforded me five to six hours of sleep. It had gotten to a point where I needed to take a decision — and a stand. That was my moment of truth; to tune out or to flake out.
Finally, I resolved to fall off the grid for the next couple of hours. I checked my email for one last time that day and shut my phone off while my Facebook buzzed and my Twitter chirped, pleading for attention. When I woke up four hours later, I had made my decision — I had to slay the dragon before I could save the princess. I needed to tune out more often in order to avoid a burnout.
Almost at the flip of a coin, I had done the impossible. And bam! I suddenly felt my aching head giving way to a renewed verve to focus on the things that mattered. This was unexpected for me. And it felt great. To my surprise, I didn’t feel the anxiety of missing out on the menial chores of the day and didn’t miss the adrenaline rush of multitasking. I thought to myself “so that’s what it feels to tune out.” That day I resumed work on the manuscript of my book — something I had been putting off for many days.
Next Monday, I applied for two weeks of vacation (staycation) to spend time with family and finish the manuscript before Christmas holidays. During that time, I mostly kept my phone turned off save a couple of hours in the evenings. I was finally able to focus on the one thing that mattered most at the time. Right before the end of holidays, I had finished the manuscript of my book and sent it off for publication — a feat that would have taken me months to accomplish otherwise.
The two weeks were just meant for some downtime; nothing else. I didn’t want it to be a hectic vacation where I would shuttle from one tourist destination to another, all the while worrying about the sights and sounds I was missing. Instead, I purposely pampered myself like I had never done before. I went out for walks, read books, listened to my favourite music, went to the gym and at times did nothing. Nothing at all.
In order to ensure that it wasn’t just a one-time occurrence, I have factored my tune out regime in my yearly calendar so that I am able to spread it out at nearly equal intervals. A week every three to four months would suffice for me and will give me the required downtime to focus my energies back to what matters in life based on my vision for the future.
Originally published at medium.com