This week’s Life@Work topic is work and rest. This is a very timely topic for me, as I head out for a day at a vendor table. This week in particular I really tried to find some space for rest, and wasn’t successful at that. Not that I had no down time. But when I did take time away from work intentionally for rest, I spent it almost in physical recuperation, lying on the sofa. And when I spent time away from work on other things — music, time with friends, walking — I was thinking about the work that needed doing or about how tired I was, not fully participating and enjoying it.

When I was talking with The Empress on Thursday, I shared with her my thinking in systems idea about work flow and stock. Also, since we are very old friends, I told her how much I earned last month.

It was enough that, as #2 son pointed out yesterday, I was able to buy tires and made a payment on tuition and will still be able to pay the taxes, and we’re not in financial crisis. I even bought #1 son a cool birthday present. This is pretty wonderful.

I was sharing this with The Empress as evidence that I don’t have my workflow under control. I earned nearly three times as much in March as I did in January. Clearly, I worked too much in March and not enough in January, right? Maybe not, though.

Here are some factors I didn’t take into account:

  • The stock of work doesn’t change immediately when the flow changes. If you pull the plug in the bathtub as the water is still running in, the level of water won’t go down immediately. It takes time for the system to respond.
  • How much I earn is not the same thing as how much I work, because my earnings can arrive weeks or in some cases even a couple of months after the work is done. My low earnings in January reflected my two weeks off in December and my clients’ failure to pay me because they were busy with the holidays, the unbillable hours involved in building my online course, and the college’s pay schedule, not just how much I worked in January.
  • The amount of rest I get is not just about my billable hours. It’s also about the unbillable hours. Since I also had a family crisis in March, it might well be that my stock of billable hours was exactly right in March, and I just had too much other stuff going on.

I think I can conclude that my stock and flow diagram is inadequate to describe my workflow situation, let alone to predict my income.

Life@Work advocates taking a sabbath: one day a week when you don’t work. I’m not really expecting to do that, because I’ll have taxes and housework and stuff to do, and Holy Week begins tomorrow so I already have a lot of extra singing and whatnot, plus meetings and more than 20 billable hours already scheduled. Work@Life says,”It takes faith not to work on the sabbath — faith to keep you from worrying about getting left behind, about being able to get everything done, about pressure from peers who don’t observe a biblical rest.”

Looking back at this week and trying to extrapolate to the future from it doesn’t really work, because it included grief and the Wall Street Journal. Looking ahead to the coming week and trying to use it to create a workable work/rest schedule doesn’t really work, because it’s Holy Week, and I have to get ready for Easter dinner guests, too.

But that may be the benefit of thinking in terms of a Sabbath. Life@Work says that people structure work/rest differently. We may work way too much in hopes of retiring early, or work nonstop on a project and then crash when it’s finished. I know people who work ineffectively and waste lots of time while fretting that they work all the time, and people who work continually and joyfully for the pleasure they get from their work. If we commit to a Sabbath, then our personal foibles can be accommodated and the unpredictable things of life can take place, and we will still have the right amount of rest.

Now, this is a long post, but if you’re still reading, I want to share with you something I read this morning in an article on passive barriers to change by Ramit Sethi:

  1. Get a piece of paper and a pen, or open up Notepad on your computer.
  2. Identify 10 things you would do if you were perfect. Don’t censor —just write what comes to mind. And focus on actions, not outcomes. Examples: “I’d work out 4 times per week, clean my garage by this Sunday, play with my son for 30 minutes each day, and check my spending once per week.”
  3. Now, play the “Five Whys” game: Why aren’t you doing it?

Getting all my systems in order is one of my goals for this year, and I feel as though I’m getting the whole workflow thing closer to where it should be. But I know that I should be taking time not only for rest but also for exercise, arranging for healthy meals, and housework. So I think I’m going to contemplate why I don’t do these things that I know I should, and see whether I can’t get that under control.

Because my method of waiting for things to Get Back to Normal isn’t working.