When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”  – Clifton Fadiman

I want to write and I must figure out how to do it efficiently, or it is not going to happen.

Enter the productivity experts’ advice.

  • I should know what time of the day I work best and work then.
  •  I should do work in focused blocks of time.
  • Jumping between tasks slows me down.
  • And FYI, a major barrier to success is an environment that does not support my work.

I couldn’t agree more. But implementation is a struggle…

It’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Our little tourist town is inundated with domestic vacationers. Cell service is maxed out. Grocery stores are packed.  Limited bandwidth means even internet cafes often don’t have internet.

Grocery shopping not completed before 10 am takes three times a long.

The best time for playing outside is morning, when we would do our best schoolwork.

My kids are most pleasant when they go to bed early, but we live in a vacation complex, surrounded by vacationers who dine at 10 pm and whose children play on the playgrounds after midnight.

I feel completely out of sync with my surroundings. This is compounded because it’s January. A fresh start. Time to be super productive. I have S.M.A.R.T. goals to reach. A writing habit to establish. A blog to post. An email list to build. Homeschooling curriculum to work through. (Kids who think they should do not school work because it’s summer yet again. I know this may seem unbelievable from your icy vantage point, but there is such thing as too much summer.)

Here, January means none of that. January days are lazy, hazy, dog days of summer.

Every afternoon, the river is packed. It’s the thing to do. Spend la tarde (2-8pm, longer on Sundays) by the river or pool.

Soaking. Sitting. Just being.

Lawn chairs sit in shallow pools, allowing sunbathers to keep their toes cool while their upper bodies bake. Some float or sit on submerged rocks. In the shade, friends cluster together to sip maté and chat.

Down time is something Argentines do much better than us norteamericanos.

We have a more complicated relationship with rest. We need a start and end time for our relaxation. Even our down time is filled with activity. Sight-seeing. Entertainment. Disney (a.k.a., overstimulation). Feats of athleticism.

Or rest becomes another obligation. I should sleep more. I should read more. I should stop cleaning and typing and doing and planning. I should rest.

I feel guilty for not resting. But to stop all the doing fills me with angst. I feel guilty for not doing.

We have come to believe not wasting time is a virtue.

We have mistakenly accepted that being still by a river is the same as wasting time.  We like to feel productive. Busy is useful, isn’t it? It follows that playing, resting, chilling out are not useful.

Jan Johnson says thirty-nine percent of Americans believe leisure is only a means to recharge so we can keep working more. She argues that “leisure is good and holy in itself.”

There are times when play or rest is the best time investment you could choose.

Today, with extreme heat and a sick kid, I need to accept that I will not get as much accomplished as I’d planned. Certain hours of the day are a write off.

It’s time to stop fighting it and just be. Play cards with the kids. Read that novel.

I’m off to watch Prince Caspian with a sick kiddo.

Do you have a complicated relationship with rest? What is restful and restorative for you? Can you block a bit of time in your calendar and plan to play? And then protect that time. Let me know how it goes.

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