Retreating to Disconnect

This is trip is a vacation for all intent-and-purposes, but it’s got a second role, a company retreat. The company being the two person venture of CRIANA. In May I was elated, events were finally aligning where I could truly go solo and focus my energy, skills and time on our business idea. Increased work came in from a client who I had been working with for over 2 years, excellent this was happening!

I thought, great now my part time side clients can truly get the attention they need and deserve. I will finally have time to do everything I want to do. Except that didn’t quite happen.

I’ve been busy, some weeks swamped, so swamped just before vacation I fell asleep with my laptop on my lap at 6:45pm. What I did not realize is that I had fallen into the greatest trap that befalls most people starting businesses. I wanted to do everything right and try to do everything. I let one project run right over another project, until there were no more hours in the day. But hey, there’s tomorrow! The next day would start late due to exhaustion from the previous night’s attempts to get ahead. A new request I hadn’t anticipated came in in the morning, or just a life need like going to the grocery store would need to fit in and I’d be behind.

My anxiety slowly grew and grew. I knew I was behind on projects. I knew there were only so many hours in the day, and I wanted to try to make everyone happy. Right there I should have caught that red flag. You can not make everyone happy. Worst I knew I had forsaken the one area I really can’t afford to, my health.

This is where the retreat became as much about defining our business, how we want our life with this business to be, our roles, and measuring success, as much as, disconnecting from the world. I had become a person constantly checking my phone in pursuit of checking off that last task to say it’s done, only for another to appear. Constantly worried I was forgetting something and/or going to make someone mad.

How did we become a society so fixated on work? It’s as if the phrase “idle hands do the devils work” turned into some psychotic Walking Dead episode and now everyone is determined to never seem not busy. In 2012 in the NY Times Tim Kreider wrote The “Busy” Trap, about how people take pride in being busy, even for their kids. I remember reading that article at the time and thinking, “oh, I think I might becoming one of those people, but I don’t want to be.”

While disconnecting on our retreat, I’m also finally finishing the book “Manage Your Day-to-Day…” by Scott Belsky of 99U. Several chapters feel like someone has been watching my life and writing a book about it. The quote that struck me today was this one from Henry David Thoreau,

It is not enough to be busy, (the ants are busy) we must ask: ‘What are we busy about?’Henry David Thoreau

All I could think was, seriously this “busy” thing goes back to Thoreau? We’re the Greeks lounging around eating olives, claiming they were “busy”? This “busy” thing really is a trap and how far back in civilization does this go?

Changing constructs. From this trip, I’ve started creating more defined barriers between work and life. Slow down. Really, really slow down. Do not check the phone. Disable notifications. I set my schedule, not my schedule sets my life. I’m reminded of an interview with Mick Hucknall of Simply Red during their Live in Sicily tour. He said he was reminded of what truly mattered in life when he realized the people he met were going about their day with a “work to live” mentality, rather than a “live to work” one.

Life’s a work in progress. I’m slowly working on getting this right.