As this article is being written, my wife, Janey, and I are at the National Seashore Park on Padre Island, down the road from Corpus Christi, Texas. I am sitting in a folding chair a few feet from the breaking surf.
There is a warm breeze keeping me comfortable as I soak up the sun. I am dressed for the occasion in my shorts, t-shirt and sandals.
I watch the shore birds as they run along the surf, looking for food as I delight in the amazing diversity of nature. Then I fix my gaze on the horizon and just take it all in: the curling waves — near and far, the calls of the various species of birds, the moist, salty air and the soothing sound of the waves breaking on the beach. Ah yes, life is good.
Rejuvenation is Good Medicine
This high-quality R&R is much more than idle loafing . . . it’s an important ingredient that allows us to do what we do. Whatever you do, taking time to relax and regenerate helps you to do it better. If you don’t pause occasionally, shift your mind into neutral and recharge your batteries, your productivity plummets and you may not even realize it.
“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.” – Heroditus (5th century BC)
If you find yourself struggling to get going and stare into the distance a lot with nothing in particular on your mind, chances are, you are overdue for some concentrated, quality rest and relaxation.
Here’s how it works for us. Janey and I are a music and comedy duo known as “Laughing Bird.” We are in the middle of a concert tour and our schedule is full. For the last couple of months, every day we are doing a concert or driving to the next one. We love it and wouldn’t trade our lifestyle for anything else we’ve seen, but we have learned the importance of pacing ourselves. Whenever there’s a break in the schedule, we make it a point to regroup, recharge and revitalize our energies.
From the outside looking in, it may appear that our “work” isn’t work at all since we make our living playing music. Our career reminds me of a duck floating along serenely, making it look easy. What the casual observer doesn’t see is the constant, energetic paddling going on just below the surface.
It’s the same for most of us. The easier it looks, the more behind-the-scenes activities are required to keep it afloat.
In our case, the audience sees a two hour show — a pretty easy schedule, right? On the days we have concerts, our “official” work day begins with driving to the venue. We try to keep our drive time under two hours on concert days, but it’s often more. We arrive at 2:00 P.M., meet the hosts, and begin setting up our sound system, stage lights and CD table. Then we do a sound check. All this usually takes about two hours. Then we grab a quick lunch and try to rest a little before it’s time to shower and get dressed for the show. We return to the stage area 30 or 45 minutes before show time to tune our instruments and schmooze a little with the concert presenters and the audience members who arrive early.
The show itself is usually a little over 2 hours with a short intermission. After it’s over, we linger to visit and autograph CDs for thirty minutes or so. By about 9:30, we are ready to retire our stage clothes and get back into our roadie clothes. Next we pack it all up and stow it in our tour bus motorhome. This process usually takes about an hour and a half, depending on whether or not we have help. (It just takes a little longer if someone tries to help . . . we have a well refined system that is effectively quick, if left to our own devices.)
By about 11:00 P.M., we are ready to sit down for the first time since about 5:30 or 6:00 . . . that’s over 5 hours on our feet non-stop. When we get back to the motorhome, sometimes we try to catch up on emails and take care of any pressing business before bed.
The next morning, there are business calls to make, letters to write, contracts to send, promo to mail, ads to create and submit, rehearsals and all the other little details necessary to keep an independent show on the road. There is always one more thing pressing for our attention. Usually, we do it gladly, gratefully and enthusiastically . . . unless we haven’t taken a break for a while, in which case we find ourselves bogging down and staring at the horizon a lot.
We both wear a lot of hats in this micro version of show business — booking agent, publicist, graphic artist, marketer, driver, mechanic, cook, wardrobe mistress, songwriter, arranger, recording engineer, producer, inventory control manager, PR agent, etc. Oh yes, and we also get to pause occasionally and play music and sing and laugh for a couple of hours.
“It’s great to be self-employed because you only have to work half-days . . . and you get to choose which 12 hours that is.” — Jim Guhlke
We love our life together and the freedom of being modern-day traveling troubadours. It’s an unusual lifestyle that may be interesting to you or boring, but the point is that whatever you do in life, there is always more going on behind the scenes. The easier it looks to a casual observer, the more effort, energy and careful planning is likely involved. Whatever you do to make ends meet, for most of us, it takes a lot of time, energy and dedication to make it happen.
It’s All Too Much
Is your energy and productivity increasing or do you feel like you get bogged down easily in the endless details? Perhaps you feel like your enthusiasm is evaporating, and you are just going through the motions with your mind numb.
We have been conditioned in Western society to maintain our frantic pace throughout our working lives, at all costs. (And it does cost us — all too often, it costs us our health, our relationships and our very lives. Many of us work ourselves to death.) We continue doing more and more until we work ourselves into a frenzy. Why? Because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. We have come to believe it’s necessary to maintain this insane pace to keep up or just to get by.
It’s unreasonable to expect our productivity to increase while maintaining such a relentless schedule. All the countless details going on behind the scenes require your energy and attention too — it’s not just the time you are “at work.” (Our situation of a 12 hour work day necessary to provide a two hour show may seem more exaggerated than most, but most of us are paddling like hell just beneath the surface to keep afloat, all while making it look easy.)
“The time to relax is — when you don’t have time for it.” – Sidney J. Harris
“No matter how much pressure you feel at work, if you could find ways to relax for at least five minutes every hour, you’d be more productive.” – Dr. Joyce Brothers (1928 – )
Let More Life into Your Life
You already know you need to schedule regular breaks into your routine. Why? You need time to let your mind wander — time to imagine new possibilities — time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life — time to nurture soul. Life is more than an endless to-do list, and many of its most important gifts come when you allow yourself to put the daily details on pause and just experience the simplicity of life in the moment with nothing in particular on your mind that needs to be done.
“During [these] periods of relaxation after concentrated intellectual activity, the intuitive mind seems to take over and can produce the sudden clarifying insights which give so much joy and delight.” – Fritjof Capra, physicist
If you don’t schedule breaks to allow for this life recharging, spiritual nourishment, you are scheduling more and more of the same. These valuable rejuvenating sessions rarely happen accidentally — you must plan for them and work them into your busy schedule, just like all the other important things in your life. Mark it on your calendar and realize how important it is to follow through and do it. It’s a priority — perhaps one of life’s biggest priorities to help enhance the quality of your life.
“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Find Whatever Works Best for You
There are many ways to cut yourself some slack, so choose whatever feels good. Janey and I enjoy walking along the beach and feeling the warm, moist air on our skin while hearing the bird calls and the sound of the surf. We also enjoy hiking in the mountains. The point is to do something different from your usual routine to give your mind and imagination free reign to go to new places. What would feel good to you?
· Take a long, hot bath in candlelight.
· Curl up with a good book.
· Spend the day at the park — take a blanket and a picnic. (Take snacks too in case you decide to stay all day.)
· Take in a double feature. Then take a walk to let the images and ideas stimulate your thinking.
· Go on a vacation — now, while you can. Don’t put it off . . . again.
· Find more time for your favorite hobbies, or take up a new hobby.
· Invite a few friends over for a simple dinner — or a pot-luck. (Or go out to eat so you don’t have to cook and do dishes.) Encourage stimulating conversation.
· Find time to feed your heart and soul — allow your inner batteries to recharge and rejuvenate your enthusiasm. (How? The next point is one of my personal favorites.)
· Turn off the TV — you will be amazed at all the time you will free up for more important activities. (See previous article: “The Trouble with TV.”)
For more ideas to re-inspire and re-energize yourself, see previous article: “Take Time for You.”
“Have a variety of interests … These interests relax the mind and lessen tension on the nervous system. People with many interests live, not only longest, but happiest.” – George Mathew Allen
Not only will your inner being soar with a dance of celebration for the spiritual nourishment, but you will be able to refocus on your work with renewed enthusiasm and increased productivity. Stale attention and boredom will be replaced by quick thinking and being interested in whatever you need to do. When you are not tired, everything looks better and you function better. All areas of your life benefit when you take some time for you.
“Those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good plays, good company, good conversation — what are they? They are the happiest people in the world.” – William Lyon Phelps
So ignore the lame excuses you have been telling yourself, and just do something fun for you. Then pay attention to how you feel. When you feel good, all areas of your life are on an upswing, and everyone in your life also benefits.
Have a great time on your day(s) off. You deserve it (and you probably need it too!)
Sorry this article isn’t longer, but it’s time to get up and go for a walk on the beach.
While reading, did you choose to hear the relaxing instrumental music linked at the beginning of this article? To learn more about it, click here.
Listen FREE to the song samples below . . . chosen to enhance the ideas in this article.
Trash Our Treasures
People seem to have a history of awarding seemingly insignificant details with places of prominence in our lives, while ignoring or even destroying the most important aspects.
Flying in the Sea
I’m Goin’ Fishin‘
Hand in Hand and Heart to Heart
A Heartbeat in Eternity’s Highway
Time of Our Lives
Takin’ My Time
Do What You Love
You Gotta Have Fun
Songs by Tupelo
Take Time for You
The Trouble with TV
Being Present through Sensuality
The Dilemma of Desire
Balancing Desire with Contentment
Action and Satisfaction
Goal Setting or Let Go and Let God
Articles by Tupelo
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