Celebrating detachment

cinque-terre

When I pause, I get to reflect back on how much has happened over the last two years. My life is almost unrecognisable now. When you’re living in the moment – going through periods of immense change, you’re often unanchored to the past. So much so that it’s hard to see progress without reminiscing about where you’ve come from. Not seeing progress is demotivating as you can’t understand the results of your actions.

Today, as I prepare for a sneaky summer sojourn to Europe and let my drive chill, I feel proud of where things are at with work and grateful for the brilliant community I seem to have gathered around me. Perhaps what I’m not so proud of is some of the things you miss out on along the way when you’re pushing hard to create something. In my case, it’s often the art of simple relaxation. I’m incredibly bad at it. Put me on a beach with a book and while it’s most people’s idea of bliss, I dance with the guilt of not achieving anything. It’s a huge challenge to be comfortable without ‘doing’ for an extended period of time.

In this post Psychological Detachment – The Importance and Benefits of Mentally “Switching Off” From Work During Leisure Time, Dan DeFoe discusses how crucial mental disengagement during off-work hours is for well being. When you’re doing a startup, it’s almost impossible to switch off.  There’s always something more you can be doing and ‘shit hits the fan’ at least once a month. You can try to make the most of working longer to gain a sense of control but this is a huge mistake for productivity. You get more done by stepping away. DeFoe recommends:

“Clear physical and mental boundaries between work and non-work life provide best pathway to psychological detachment.”

and

“The effects of psychological detachment evidence in day-to-day changes and fluctuations.  Past research shows associations in noticeable changes in contentment, cheerfulness, fatigue, depletion, irritation, and job performance relative to detachment from work.”

According to research he came across, the most important aspect of the restorative environment is “fascination”. I used to associate relaxation time with social time (often eating, drinking, sitting, etc.), which doesn’t have to be the case. You can create your own version of it – I’m more of a fan of writing, napping and walking.

Charlie Hoehn also has an incredible post about how he pushed through and switched off successfully using ‘play’ in the context of fun (after all Dr Seuss reminds us that “Adults are just obsolete children.”).

“Giving myself permission to PLAY was the cure for my anxiety. It was a subtle but powerful shift in how I viewed the world.”

and the symptoms:

“The real problem had been my state of mind. I’d become increasingly adept at rejecting any form of “non-productivity.” I couldn’t allow any form of play if it didn’t contribute to earning money or doing something “meaningful.” Even when I was with friends or doing something that was supposed to be fun, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the time I was wasting.” … “Once I saw that I’d forgotten to treat my work as play, I knew what I had to do in order to fix it. It was simply a choice.”

One of the things I’ve done for both my personal and work email is put an out of office autoresponder on. A few months back, my inner tech early adopter was laughing at how redundant such a function was and how only the land of corporates used them (after all, you can’t take a true break and palm off all your responsibility in a startup, right?). How wrong I was. Being super responsive and connected year-in, year-out is ridiculous and letting people know when you’re off the grid is not only respectful to them – but yourself. It creates a subtle barrier.

So, what’s next? For starters, I’ll be travelling and getting out of Manhattan’s humid rabbit warren. Most of the trips I’ve taken in recent years have been work-oriented and location independent in style – glued to the next wifi location. This time I plan to barely open my MacBook. I’ll be headed to the UK first for a friend’s wedding, then the South of France before driving along the coast to Italy. There, I’ll cover Cinque Terre, Florence and Tuscany, Rome and Amalfi.

Follow my travels along via Instagram – and don’t forget to play this summer/winter.

Image credit: Maranola Night on 500px

Note: I wrote this post two weeks ago – I am currently listening to the distant church bells on a peaceful evening in Corniglia :)

One thought on “Celebrating detachment

  1. Love this post Kate, it looks like you’ve had a chance to switch off :) Sorry to have missed you in NYC, but it looks like you are having the trip of a lifetime!

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