This article originally appeared in Inc.. If you like this article,
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My coworkers will tell you that trying to speak with me while I'm hammering away on my computer is like trying to shake a sleepwalker out of a trance. When I get in the zone, I can write 15-page eBooks in one sitting. To compound this focus, I usually have 12 tabs open at any given time, and hop between them like a conductor ushering his orchestra along.
There's a lot I can't do in this world...but one thing I can do is be super productive.
Most professionals might see this as a fantastic benefit; however, I assure you that it's as much a benefit as a built-up resistance to antibiotics. At a certain point, being productive became bad for my health--and to make matters worse, it took me half a decade to realize it.
How I do know? Well, a few weeks ago I went on vacation. I felt slightly burnt out, and I was ready to go away and leave all my troubles behind for the sweet embrace of a pina colada. Much to my chagrin, however, it took me five days to decompress and start to even be present. For five days, I couldn't turn my mind off. I couldn't stop thinking about goals, to-do's, gaps, opportunities and challenges that lay thousands of miles behind me.
Finally, after much self-chastising, anger and guilt about my mental state, I was finally able to become present and start to appreciate my family and surroundings. Unfortunately, it was just in time to go back to reality.
Needless to say, the entire episode was a rude awakening. I was enlightened to realize that my (over)productive nature had put my brain into an incessant state of worrying, a state over which I had obviously no control. On the last day of my journey, I vowed to make some changes to never get back into this trap again.
1. I re-examined my daily pace.
It's not enough to get things done; I also need to get them done calmly, methodically and easily, without any mental duress to accompany the task. Now I ask myself a question Tim Ferriss taught me: "What would this look like if it were easy?" It reminds me to relax my shoulders and my mind and simply plug along in a natural rhythm.
2. I re-assessed my daily tasks.
I took an incredibly close look at my entire day and made some small but significant changes. For example, I went through my inbox and didn't just delete, but also unsubscribed from everything that wasn't 100 percent aligned with my goals.
On the personal side, I decided to pick out the next day's clothes the night before instead of standing half-asleep before my closet every morning, frustrated at why my brain couldn't function. It's amazing how differently I feel now that I don't start the day off with unimportant decisions that lead to decision fatigue.
3. I decided to set my strategy and forget it...for a while.
I have a bad habit of constantly assessing my life goals, strategies and decisions in a nonstop loop. I know this is unhealthy. Coming home from vacation, I took a wide view of my business and personal decisions and asked myself, "are these the right decisions to achieve my goals?" The answer was yes--which meant there was no need to revisit them for at least a few months. So, I resolved myself to take the long view and stay comfortable with my decisions instead of constantly second-guessing them.
It made me sad to think I had "wasted" five days of my valuable time off, but in a way I think the ordeal taught me a valuable lesson about where true relaxation comes from. Now, I understand that being mentally restful is a daily, cultivated state of mind--one that I have to focus on in and of itself if I want to stop living in the future and enjoy the present.
It also helps to start planning the next vacation as soon as possible. Who's with me?