Daisy and the Machine: My march to permanent productivity
Whilst most of the world was setting their New Years resolutions this time last month - to get fitter, to eat more vegetables, run more, have more baths, spend more time with family - normal, aspirational resolutions, I only had one desire in my mind.
This was the same thing I was wishing for a few weeks earlier at Christmas time. I wrote to Santa and I hoped that I had been a good enough girl for him to give it to me.
I dreamt of what any self-respecting woman would dream of. And frankly you all should have been dreaming of it too. I was dreaming of being a robot.
Because within our current climate, this was the only rational thing to wish for. I yearned not to get tired. To not have to switch off. To wake up at 5am and go to bed at 1am. To deliver on everything I have to deliver on in a work capacity and then at home (husband, dog, cooking, cleaning) and with family near and far (trains, planes, skypes) - not to mention the odd sprinkle of ‘me-time’ - applying face cream, shaving legs, booking time in to have 4-month old roots sorted. And well I didn’t (don’t) have the time to do all of this.
And so last year as I pushed myself to get back onto my laptop at 10pm to do some more social media scheduling - with all the physical might that I presumed was necessary to push through ‘the wall’ on a marathon - and fought against my eyes closing and my brain imploding, I truly resented the fact that I got tired. I was angry at myself for being human.
In a recent piece in the New York Times brilliantly titled; “Why are young people pretending to love work?” Erin Griffith shows us that even the cucumbers in the largest co-work provider in the world, WeWork’s water coolers have an agenda. “Don’t stop when you’re tired,” someone recently carved into the floating vegetables’ flesh. “Stop when you’re done.”
Frankly robot is the new normal.
Side-hustle (or as our parents would call it - ‘moonlighting’) is now THE big thing. Jobs used to be necessary evils to draft in the dollars, nowadays everyone has a vocation. On the one hand this is great. No one wants to be repeating a task they detest over and over, but on the other hand, there are days (and perhaps time in our lives) when a job needn’t be more than a job. Joy comes from many sources. But with every recruitment company advert advocating that you should love Mondays and Instagram filled to the brim with the narrative that following your passion = never working a day in your life (ha), we’re able to see why our desire to find our own 'unicorn inner peace career path’ is one that’s got a lot of people scrambling.
In a vey insightful piece in Stylist magazine, Angela Saini talks about how technology could be affecting our brain - and how our ode to the multitask is not really brain friendly. Scrolling Twitter whilst making dinner, checking work emails whilst having a glass of wine with your mate, replying to a Spanish villa owner about your mate’s hen do when you’re in a meeting. We’re used to it. But it’s actually just wasting time and worsening productivity.
Yet here’s the quandary. Tech has given us more opportunity than we can handle. But we want to do it all.
There are days I wish I lived in a pre-tech era, galloping through the fields with all my free time. But then there are days I adore it for its democratic virtues and lifeline for small business and new ideas.
Still, it’s hard when your best friend (mine is my phone - don’t lie, yours is too) is a robot.
My best friend, the one I spend most of my time with never turns off.
It calls me, bleeps me, sells to me, gives me pretty pictures, let’s me look at dogs wearing hats 100% of the time. 24/7. It is a source of business growth that is always there. A source of new people to email and new businesses to contact. The fact that is is always on makes me feel like I need to honour it. I need to step up to it. Not disobey it. Not switch myself off.
In David Hieatt’s book Do Purpose, he writes: ‘An experiment in the 1940s measured men loading pig iron onto train freight cars. Each man didn’t stop until they managed 12.5 tons. By noon, they were exhausted and could do no more. The next day, they were told to load the pig iron for 26 minutes. Then rest for 34 minutes. They rested more than they worked. At the end of the day, the had loaded 47 tons. That’s almost 4 times as many as working flat out.’
Compartmentalising and rest is prescribed by all the sensible people, and seemingly it has demonstrably positive results as above.
But are we in an era - where we’re figuratively trying to load 97 ton a day. Could it be conceded that we have a peak? Can we find our equivalent of 47 tons - and not pile ourselves up with double that? In Marie Kondo language, are we facing a norm where we have too many socks and not enough drawers?
Therefore any attempt at ‘trying to rest’ will end up unsuccessful and wildly exhausting.
THE RUSH RACE
Writer, Helen Russell found found that after years of unsuccessfully trying for a baby - and being told by her doctor ‘you’re not pregnant, you’re stressed’ - a move to Scandiland helped reboot her lifestyle patterns and get pregnant - read The Year of Living Danishly. Walks on the beach, working from home and logging off every evening - helped to nurture what I can only refer to as ‘normal life pace living’. Or as we refer to it in the west: SLOW.
‘In praise of SLOW. How a Worldwide Movement is challenging the cult of speed’ by Carl Honoré is a book I have had sat in my living room for years. Yes I really wanted to read it before writing this article - but you guessed it - I’m too busy. So instead of trying to pretend that I’ve read it, I’m going to summarise the reasons I wanted to read it - why it resonated with me - from the words on its back cover. ‘These days our culture teaches us that faster is better’ very true - thanks Internet. ‘But in the race to keep up - everything suffers - our work, diet and health, our relationships and sex lives.’
Slowing down is without doubt something we need to do, but I refer to my earlier sock/pig iron loading analogy for why this is proving so difficult. We have too may socks (expectations) upon ourselves - self-imposed and otherwise - to successfully put them all away in their drawers (our brain).
And you know what happens when that happens. You can't close your drawers. Marie Kondo would NOT be happy. Or in other words as my friend, Pat put it: “It’s OK to be always bubbling, but you don’t want to boil over.”
And so I seek advice from one of the gurus of human psychology, Jordan Peterson on the nature of ‘not boiling over’ with our own expectations. And I ask myself are we shooting ourselves in the foot with the narrative of ‘happiness’ in the first place?
Peterson says: “If you are suffering, or someone else close to you is, that’s sad. But alas, it’s not particularly special. We don’t suffer only because ‘politicians are dimwitted', or ‘the system is corrupt’. It is because we are born human that we are guaranteed a good dose of suffering.”
Call me crazy, but I find this statement alarmingly uplifting. Why? Because it takes away so many expectations. The striving for perpetual productivity, for evergreen happiness, for go-get-em-tiger Mondays is in essence a striving for perfection. My robotic-like desires come from a place of wanting to do everything right and get everything done. In fact I just want to do it all. But - and it pains me to say this because I am a child of the busy revolution, I need to free my mind of some things. I need to Marie Kondo my brain. I need to return to ‘normal life pace livin
ME (ABOVE) A ROBOT (ABOVE)
I can’t buy more gigabytes. My brain has capacity. This fact irritates me, but the more I fight it the more my brain defies me. (If you’re not sure how hot your brain is check out The Brain Fog Fix by Mike Dow. ) And so as I step forward into my journey into de-cluttering my brain, I am taking with it five thoughts. (I mean this is itself is probably too many, but I shall proceed…)
a) My brain is a chest of drawers. Once its full up, I need to empty some stuff.
b) My surroundings (media, marketing, life expectations etc) are regularly bombarding me with more stuff to put in my chest. I should not blame myself for the fact that my cup spilleth over. I do not need another sock (hang-up) to add to my list.
c) If me and my surroundings are continuing not to gel (e.g. they continue to bombard me with more stuff than I can reasonably compartmentalise), I am not a tree and therefore I can move. An adventure in Denmark may well await.
d) When you have been on the go for days (weeks, months) and peak capacity shows no signs of slowing down, rest anyway. You’ll be much more efficient when you revisit your to-do list in an hour or so and your body will be grateful for the time off.
e) For tips on how to rest, unwind, things to take your mind off what you’re meant to be doing head to yolklore.co.uk and click on Brain Food.
f) I am not a robot.
Bonus Point g) I continue to be very tired. Sleep spray recommendations and whale music most welcome.