Allowing Yourself Time for Purposeful Non-Productivity 8


TODAY’S ARTICLE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE the latest in the Read Like a Writer series, in which I would write about how Sue Monk Kidd Structured her memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. But when Sunday, the day I write my blog posts, rolled around, I found myself procrastinating. And then procrastinating some more. I felt such a strong inner reluctance to write, that it pulled me up short. Upon reflection, I realized I was simply tired.

Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I push myself pretty hard most of the time. I’m all about productivity and efficiency. (You probably know this if you’re on my email list, because I’ve been sending out emails promoting its virtues.) I have a creative day job, and around and outside that I write, take on editing clients, run online classes, and spend quite a bit of time on book planning and marketing. I exercise, participate in a writing critique group (my lifeline), and am involved in two political action groups. All in addition to the activities I don’t really count, like shopping and cooking (I love to cook) and cleaning house.

But, Sunday morning I realized I needed a day off. And with that realization, I gave myself permission to be purposefully non-productive for an entire day. A mini-vacation of sorts.

For me, this means sitting in bed propped up on pillows until 11:00 a.m., writing in my journal and allowing myself to browse the web for news. It means taking a walk, watering the garden, harvesting tomatoes and making tomato soup and tomato sauce for freezing. It means reading for pleasure instead of editing or analysis—something I have painfully little time to do in my normal schedule. It means playing Angry Birds Blast on my iPhone (useless!) and sitting on the back patio watching the sunset.

The reason I’m writing about this is that I think it’s important to listen our hearts.

If you’re feeling resistance to something, there’s a reason. Often, the underlying reason for resistance is fear or insecurity and, in those cases, the remedy is most often to push through the resistance. Other times, resistance is a sign that you’ve overcommitted or are pushing yourself to do something you really don’t want to do. In those cases, I think it’s perfectly okay to give yourself permission to change plans.

You’ll know it’s the right choice if, when you decide to adjust, you feel lighter, like you suddenly have more room to breathe. And that’s how I felt when I decided not to write that article.

Do you allow yourself to change plans and occasionally give yourself a day of purposeful non-productivity? If so, what do you like to do on those “days off”?

Next week, I’ll be talking about how to write better dialogue.

And our next book in the Read Like a Writer series is Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Be sure to pick up your copy and join the discussion on October 30.


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8 thoughts on “Allowing Yourself Time for Purposeful Non-Productivity

  • Marjorie Kildare

    Hurrah! One more woman finally realized she’s not a machine, a robot, a plug-in tool that goes until it quits telling it’s time to buy a new one. Unlike them, we can not replace ourselves – no matter what. We are not machines.

    So, I rejoice with you, but think what you listed was still an awful lot to do in a day – while believing you took time off. Just reread what you listed! I got tired just reading.

    All the same, I’m glad you’re on-line doing what you’re doing…but love to hear you taking time for yourself.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Ha! It does sound like a lot when you read it straight through … I guess the important thing for me was to be able to just do whatever I wanted for however long I wanted and not feel pressured by time to get a particular thing done. 🙂

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    I press pretty hard a majority of the time, rarely giving myself permission to take time off. But occasionally I simply must. Sometimes my body just needs the benefits of not pressing. But more often than not, my mind needs a break. The trick for me is not feeling guilty. I’ve progressed in that area and certainly am a fresher, more sane person after taking some time off.

    • Raynna

      Agreed! Fully enjoying it and not getting stuck in guilt has been a difficult process for me. But what a relief and blessing, not just to myself but to everyone’s my life touches…it makes me a much better me :). Whew! Tough lessons, but worth pushing onward in them…or maybe I should say…relaxing in! 🙂

  • Stacy Holden

    Absolutely! At times, schedule it if necessary…take time to wander aimlessly around your house, neighborhood, a local park! This is a great reminder to tune in and listen to your heart!

  • Sherrey Meyer

    I have always been inclined to push harder and harder to complete each project, job assignment, household chore ensuring that on the other end I would make someone else happy. I’ve only recently figured out that, at age 71, some days are just not for full on, push the hell out of each thing on my to do list, and not giving myself a tension headache because I’m not getting it all done!

    Thanks for your authenticity in sharing your feelings about “giving ourselves permission” to relax when we need to and to not feel guilty. When I take a day off from writing and other jobs in my profile, I will likely be found reading, listening to classical music, or knitting, and more recently taking advantage of adult coloring books. I’m thinking I’ll take the rest of today off!

  • Martha Dee

    This is worth considering. I’m glad you made that choice. I’m reading it after 5 straight days in bed with fever, heavy cough, etc etc. Pneumonia was ruled out by my xray, and flu was ruled out by a nasal swab. Don’t know yet what got me so sick but I do wonder if I just became exhausted. I’m 65.