What my back has to say about time management
My back and neck give me hints when it’s time to take a break. A lot of the time, I don’t listen.
I’m quick to take a (long, long) break when I’m creatively stuck. But when my body needs a breather, I keep pushing.
It puzzles me, how I won’t pause and rest when I’m gardening or cleaning house or sitting at the computer. I like breaks. But stopping to rest just because my body is asking me to, feels like a big bother. It takes too long! I’ll lose my place! It’s inefficient! I have to get this thing done!
I’m especially aware of this tendency right now because it’s the time of year when there’s a lot to harvest in the garden. (Blueberries! Wild arugula!) I’m doing more bending and twisting than usual. If I’m careless, I feel it for days.
What would it be like just to stand up and stretch whenever I notice the urge? Even if this makes the project take longer?
I experimented with this the other day while cleaning out the bathtub, which is a good chore to practice with because it’s time-limited and you can clearly see when you’re finished.
I paid attention to the cues—even before any soreness set in, just the little mental message that said, “You know, this would be a good time to do something different.” Noticed that I didn’t want to. Stood up anyway. Shook myself out, got back to work.
Though I was kind of annoyed by these interruptions, they didn’t make the tub-cleaning any more onerous. My back and neck felt OK the next day. And the amount of time the breaks added to the total task was practically imperceptible. Huh.
Applying the slowed-down approach to gardening, or to sitting at the computer, is a more advanced level—those activities have fluid boundaries and are more fraught.
Next step: See what it’s like to garden while being responsive to my body’s cues for, say, 45 minutes. What kinds of signals tell me I need to pause and change what I’m doing? What’s it like to make that change? Does my impatience continue, go away, take on a different cast? Does the weeding or watering or harvesting take that much longer with breaks? If so, what is that like? How do I feel physically, right then and the next day?
And if I find myself resisting a break, what’s going through my mind? What happens after that?
I want to be more aware of my reaction to my body’s signals—observing the mental sequence, the anticipated consequences, the actual consequences, for a concrete period of time. I guess you could say that I’m opening negotiations between my impatience and my body’s need for a healthier response, and this is the fact-finding phase.