Every day I write out a schedule for myself on a pad by my computer. I first check my calendar for appointments and meetings, both professional and social. (Yes, I have professional meetings – site visits for my research, volunteer commitments, professional development and even the odd interview.) Then I structure the day, from morning email checks and job applications to afternoon garden work and evening rehearsals. It helps with self-discipline, and it keeps me focused. It’s too easy to float away on internet explorations for hours at a time, or escape into the fantasy world of a book. I don’t want to end up addicted to daytime cooking shows and eventually sinking into passive depression. Instead, I stretch my mental muscles, take a purposeful approach, and insist on “productive” activity each day.
When I mentioned this to a friend who chose to step away from a high-powered business career some years ago, she approved of the schedule approach. She said it took her a while to adjust to the change of pace, and that the structure of a daily schedule helped. That said, she has now filled her life with so many responsibilities and activities that it literally takes weeks to schedule a time to get together unless there is an “reason” or requirement from a mutual external commitment. (What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a lesson here!)
Another friend empathized with the worry that there has to be validation for how the hours of the day had been spent. Although she long ago chose a route that includes home-based activities and self-employment, the need for self-justification along with the questioning of self-esteem still arises.
My days used to center on back-to-back commitments and activities for up to 10 or 12 hours at a time. I never checked personal messages during the day, and even pleasant personal interactions and chatting were fundamentally job related. Now I see the lack of balance in those days even though at the time I was proud of how I also scheduled in exercise and community involvement to counter the stress. I feel somewhat uncomfortable with the loss of that structure, including losing the challenge and satisfaction of fitting it all into my days. I am still going through withdrawal, and to be honest, I would return to it because of the inspiring and meaningful work. However, I am on a path to better balance in my life, and even if I return to full scheduling, I will handle the stress with more wisdom.