Meeting Deadlines with R & R

What do you do when you have several important deadlines upcoming? I say, take a break. Better yet, take several. I’m in this boat right now and plan to take half the day off.

I realize that this may sound contradictory. (“Lots of work ahead? May as well party!”) But bear with me; that’s not exactly what I mean…

Like many of you, I’m a workhorse, easily put into overdrive. What can we say? We’re excited, right? We love our work and are gosh darn going to complete it ASAP, as in yesterday. These attributes can become our Achille’s heal if we’re not careful.

Consider the following:

  • Allowing ourselves time to recharge, through active or inactive rest, brings freshness and sharpness to our creativity. Plowing through without breaks, on the other hand, can cause the words on the page to go fuzzy, disrupt our memory capabilities and have asking questions like, “Does ‘dog’ have one ‘g’ or two…?”
  • Relaxation techniques, like meditation and breathing exercises, can reduce stress, pain, anxiety, headaches and insomnia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Any one of these ailments can hinder our deadline-meeting skills.
  • People in Germany work an average of nearly 400 fewer hours per year than Americans and live longer, more productive lives.
  • A study at Cornell University showed that workers alerted to rest and take short breaks from the computer typed the fastest and made up to 40% fewer mistakes than their non-resting counterparts.
  • The fact that Americans are taking continually shorter and fewer lunch breaks is of grande concern to experts like Dr. Rallie McCallister, who said, “Skipping any meal is detrimental. The brain is what most workers rely on and it does not have storage tanks for energy.”“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”Sydney J. Harris
Ways to work R&R into your day:
 
  • Eat balanced meals and snacks at regular time intervals, preferably in a calm, relaxing atmosphere. (Or at least without your laptop, cell phone or TV…)
  • If you feel stuck, stale or the need for rejuvenation, take a short walk around your block or neighborhood.
  • Work when you tend to feel energized and productive. Rest during the rest.
  • Take short breaks between each segment of your work–this could be pages, chapters or whatever measure you decide. If writing is your second or part-time job, take a break before shifting gears. Spend your break however you’d like, just make sure it’s enjoyable.
  • Take yourself on an “Artist’s Date.” The practice made famous by Julia Cameron’s bestselling book The Artist’s Way involves weekly R&R–just you and your artist self. Take crayons and a sketch pad to a park. Have your nails done. Take your pick.
  • Exercise. Regular physical activity relieves stress, boosts our moods, energy and mental focus. It also provides a great form of active meditation… Your mind wanders as your body moves. Valuable epiphanies can strike at any time.
Have you found a link between R&R and your craft? What do you do to relax?
Leave a comment

16 Comments

  1. Catherine Johnson

     /  October 24, 2011

    Wonderful post, August. Love the bit about the dog. I have a busy but well-rounded life with a pre-schoolercstill at home. Next yr when she’s at school every day I’ll put all this to the test. I often think Americans have their working life so wrong, especially when I heard how little matertiny leave you get. The kiwis on the other hand really work smart and play hard, though that’s not true of all of them lol.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Catherine! I’ve heard great things about kiwi culture and social systems… Seems we Americans can learn LOTS from you.

      I have so much respect for mothers who balance writing (or other careers and hobbies) with parenthood… Kudos to you for making your craft a priority while doing one of the world’s toughest, most important jobs. Your wee one will thank you for pursuing your personal dreams, too. 🙂

      Reply
  2. You appear to be wise beyond your years, young lady! People pay good money to hear schmucks in suits dole out inferior advice. Thanks for enriching WordPress!

    Reply
    • You mean I could be charging for this??? 😉 Then again, I wrote that in ratty ‘ol pajamas… if that makes any difference.

      Thanks for your continual support and insight. Makes my blogosphere a brighter place.

      Reply
  3. This is all so true, although for me, there is a fine line between resting and procrastinating. On the other hand, I thrive on deadlines, so I suppose sometimes the procrastination is what I need to get my juices flowing.

    Reply
    • You’re so right, Julie. Our personalities and personal strengths and weaknesses play a big role in the rest versus work scenario. (If all we do is rest, little gets done and we end up feeling crummy.) I love what you said about procrastination possibly fueling your creative juices. I imagine many writers are hard on themselves for “procrastinating,” when in fact, they are getting some much needed respite. Thanks for your wonderful insight!

      Reply
  4. Nigel Blackwell

     /  October 25, 2011

    I’m with you on this, its about quality not quantity. I have to assume that you’re getting lots of R&R to keep up the pace of your blog posts!

    I’m a bit suspicious about the Germans though. 8hrs/day x 5days/week x 52 weeks/year is about 2000hrs. Which means people in the US do double shifts all year while the Germans get the year off! This may be what leads to those happier more productive lives! 🙂
    Cheers!

    Reply
    • Haha! Thanks for catching that extra zero. CORRECTION: nearly 400 fewer hours, not thousand. See why I should’ve rested a bit more before posting that? 😉

      And yes, quality over quantity is so key. I spent a month last summer writing 9 – 11 hours per day, much of which I ended up rewriting. I now write for 5 to 7 hours most days, which includes some blogging, but primarily articles and fiction. It’s increased the quality–of writing & life–big time. Thanks for your insight, Nigel! Hope you’re having a great week.

      Reply
  5. It’s possible to combine creative writing with R&R. I get the best ideas for my writing as I’m taking long walks. Oh, sometimes I also get good ideas while I’m sleeping and I wake up raring to go!

    Reply
    • Excellent point, Ellis! Reminding ourselves that those zzz’s boost creativity and brain power can help motivate us to create and stick to healthy sleep habits (one of my personal challenges areas ;)).

      Reply
  6. I say: do whatever it takes. Sometimes, the R&R approach works for me. Sometimes, I just need to plow through. The trick is in figuring out when to apply the various approaches. I like the idea of using R&R first!

    Reply
    • Well said, Diane. I think we often plow right through those alerts from our selves that it’s time to rest. On the other hand, we can also “play” too hard and ignore, or even avoid, our prime writing time. Thanks for sharing your insight!

      Reply
  7. Coleen Patrick

     /  October 25, 2011

    Love this post–it’s so true!! I definitely work in breaks–from walking to watching a movie. I need to recharge, fuel creativity!
    And thanks for your lovely comments on my last post, appreciate it!

    Reply
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