August is a busy month for me and Solid Gold Eats. Some of my favorite events are crammed into this month, which means that weekday dinners are focused on how fast I can put something on the table.
Here are a few blogs outside of this one that explain what I’ve been up to:
- 25 Things to Do in Downtown Indianapolis During Gen Con (which is Aug 15-18, and yes I’ll be there!)
- Farm to Pint: Indiana Beer at Dig IN – A Taste of Indiana (event on Sunday, August 26, and yes I’ll be there!)
- My profile of Rob Gaston, the new Executive Director of Dig IN – A Taste of Indiana on Indiana Living Green
I’ve also been working on a recipe for Randall Beans and a new partner that I can’t mention yet. Exciting!
Isn’t that life, though? Always moving forward, always checking our calendars to see what we have to do next? What’s the next blog I have to write? The next event I have to attend?
Why live in the present?
A Facebook friend posted a link to a blog titled “Why We Must Savor Every Moment,” which is part of a slow down challenge encouraging people to stop and smell the roses. It explains that we live busier lives than we should and how that negatively effects our body. Think about it like this – when you eat your meal quickly because you need to move on to the next task, your body doesn’t have time to understand how much food you’re shoving down your throat. So when you eat fast, you eat MORE because you don’t realize that you’re already full.
In life, that concept translates to our social and professional calendars. Let me ask you this:
- Does your day start at 6am and end at midnight, and all you do is work, work, work?
- Are you completely exhausted when you get home, but you know you have more work to do?
- When was the last time that you exercised on a regular basis?
- Is there ANY white space on your Google Calendar?
- Is your signifiant other vying for your attention?
If those questions made you cry, then you’re probably moving too fast. I was a victim of this, too. Always signing up and saying yes to everything that was thrown my way, whether it was volunteering for this or writing a blog for that. I wasn’t valuing my time and the days and months passed with little recollection of anything I had done except work. People who are self-employed fall victim to this often because they don’t have set work hours with an office to show up to, so you can easily start working at 6am and end at 6pm if you aren’t careful.
When I think about moments in my life that I enjoyed, I think about times I spent with family and friends. Vacations. Picnics. Cookouts. Road trips. My weekend trips this past July. Going to the park with my dogs. Not about that deadline I met or that blog I wrote.
Speaking of dogs, they can teach you a thing about this. For example, ever since Indiana adopted Daylight Saving Time (which I utterly hate, by the way), Dollar has gotten up an hour earlier each day and wants his breakfast and dinner earlier than our normal routine. That means that when I’m in the bathroom drying my hair, he’s there with a tennis ball in his mouth ready to play. He doesn’t understand that I’m going to work and don’t have time to toss the ball back and forth, and I don’t want him stomping on the ground waking Rahul up.
Dollar isn’t thinking about what’s going on that day, the next day, or even an hour from that exact moment. He lives in the present, and so should we. Living in the present means that you’re paying attention to your surroundings. You’re not letting yourself stress over the tasks that you need to do tomorrow or in 6 months.
How to live in the present
You’re going to laugh, but here’s where I talk about how yoga plays a role in this concept. But don’t leave yet, it’s not all about yoga. I promise.
Ever since I started going to yoga class on a regular basis, I have been a happier, healthier human being. I
no longer fret am better at controlling stress when it relates to something I have no control over. I let things go and I enjoy each and every moment that I have. Even though it’s still a balancing act of finding the time to go to class, I know how much better my body and mind feels after a great session at Santosha School and so I keep going. Yoga reminds me that I am what I am, and everything I need is within me. I don’t need to fill up my calendar with stuff to feel good.
It’s more than yoga, though. It’s also about learning when to say no. To determine that, I ask myself these questions before signing up for any professional event, blog post or opportunity:
- How many nights out of the week am I already busy? I like being home, so if Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are booked, I’ll likely say no.
- Will I network at the event? Find new opportunities, meet new businesses? Or is it purely fun?
- How does this relate to my brand? Is it about food or Indianapolis or wellness?
- Will I get paid? I know that sounds selfish, but my time is valuable (and so is yours) and I can only handle so much unpaid work.
- Do I genuinely like it, or only partly? How badly do I want that opportunity?
- Is it worth the time it will take to put everything together? You’d be surprised how much effort goes into blog posts, especially when working with a client.
Asking yourself these questions or similar ones that relate to your expertise can help you say “NO” when those opportunities come your way. When you do say no, remind the person that you’re not available at this moment but they should keep you in mind for things in the future. Saying no doesn’t mean that those people will never contact you again, it just means that the opportunity at hand isn’t right for the present time.
Look, I get it. You’re saying “But Sara, I have this thing called a job, and it has deadlines, and my life doesn’t fit in between 8 and 5.” I get that, and neither does mine. As an event planner at a nonprofit, I know when things are going to be busy and when they slow down. As much as I would love to prepare for events in advance, there’s always something that can only be done right before the event. This means longer hours at work, checking email on the evenings and weekends, and staying in the office for lunch. But it’s only like that part of the time, and I relish the moments when work slows down.
If you’re like me, then even when you don’t have a deadline you easily find yourself working on SOMETHING. So, when you get home from work, try doing this instead:
- DVR your favorite daytime shows and watch an episode when you get home. Don’t immediately pick up the computer or iPad.
- Call your mother. Or father. Or grandmother. They’d love to hear from you.
- Have family meals at the dinner table. Rahul and I eat our dinners together every night that we are home.
- Play card games or video games. Your brain needs that creative outlet.
- Go outside for a while. Tend to your garden. Walk the dogs. Take a bike ride.
- Exercise. Meditate. Repeat.
- Watch a movie on Netflix/Hulu/Redbox/Amazon Prime/On Demand – see, you have no excuse to not find one.
- Work on a craft project you haven’t finished.
- As my mom would say, READ A BOOK.
Your body wants you to take a break, too. Studies have shown that people who don’t break away from work are actually really unproductive. Have a lunch hour? Even if it’s only 15 minutes, for the love of god STEP AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER AND PHONE. Seriously. Go outside. Or walk circles in your building. Talk to your coworkers. Let your mind recharge. You know how you would procrastinate on that paper due for your history class until the day before and then you decided to spend 12 hours straight in the library? It probably wasn’t the best paper, was it? This applies to your day job and professional responsibilities.
It is likely that you will have a day job for the rest of your life. You’ll have deadlines and responsibilities. But my point is that you need to make the most out of your free time. Don’t overbook yourself to the point of breaking down.
1. Know your limits. How much do you want to work, and how much do you need to work? Nobody can work 24/7 and live to tell the story.
2. Learn what opportunities you should say no to. Evaluate what you need to move forward professionally, but make sure that you aren’t neglecting your personal life and your friends and family.
3. Carve out time to NOT WORK. Yup, it’s that simple – make sure that a portion of your day involves something completely unrelated to your job or professional life. Your body wants you to take breaks for mental, physical and emotional clarity.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. I know that people have varying opinions and I think everyone’s is valid. Tell me what you do to break away and how you determine how much time you’re going to work.