It’s a cliché but probably like many other working parents I arrived at the weekend before Christmas last year absolutely and utterly spent. The already robust act of working and keeping children fed, watered and alive ratcheted up several notches in December as additional challenges were thrown in the mix.
End of year ceremonies, assemblies and performances filled the diary as did work Christmas parties, class catch-ups and family gatherings.
Any spare minutes between attending these, completing work, preparing plates for said congregations and undertaking all the regular tasks necessary to keep the home cogs turning, were dedicated to getting ready for the 25th.
There were presents to buy and wrap, presents to hide and presents to pack. Online shopping was a godsend but bricks and mortar shops could not be avoided entirely which in December in Sydney is no small undertaking. Making lists, completing lists and surreptitiously ensuring ‘Santa’ was prepared all took time.
I could go on but like many others the unpaid emotional and physical labour I undertook in December was something else, which is why I delighted in being able to stop.
After a predictably testing day and a half of traveling 800 kilometres in the car with our three children we arrived on the north coast to spend Christmas with family and I promptly forgot how to hustle. Like, I stepped out of the car at my parents’ home and it was if every cell in my body switched from turbo to idle. The bulk of the work was done and I was free to relax.
The urgency and precision which all the earlier days in December had demanded disappeared. There was time to nap, to read, to swim with the kids, to sit and chat. My tank was empty but I didn’t need to fill it. I could just putter along.
This decidedly anti-hustle state of mind lasted which is why, I think, a week on all the usual new-year resolution style posts that started popping up on social media were jarring to behold.
I have never been a ‘write-it-down’ goal setter and god knows I have never been a ‘wake up at 5am with a green smoothie, a notebook & set my intentions’ kind of girl. I am closer to ‘hold on for dear life and hope for the best’.
As I watched and read about men and women setting their agendas and goals for the best 2019 possible, I couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to match them. I figured returning from holidays would change that but it hasn’t.
The more I’ve thought about it what I’ve realised is I don’t feel like I have the capacity or the inclination to put more demands or pressure on my time. I place rather a lot of pressure on myself as it is and the simple mechanics of my life mean the daily demands are more than enough.
Instead of conjuring a list of goals to conquer I have found my mind wandering towards a different dilemma, perhaps the antithesis to big audacious personal goals: how can I bring more of my holiday state of mind to my daily life?
The truth is I just want to enjoy 2019: I would like to continue to do work I love, to enjoy my children and my marriage, to overcome some health obstacles and to have fun with friends and family along the way.
For me, I quite genuinely believe I have a better chance of achieving those things by lowering the bar, not raising it.
Which is why I whopped with joy when I read this article about Inbox Infinity which presents a seriously compelling argument about the futility of pursuing inbox zero:
“Part of the reason why we get so many emails is that we’ve all been told this story about how we need to respond quickly to be productive and meet expectations,” said John Zeratsky, an author and designer who worked in the tech industry for 15 years. “But if you respond quickly, you have a reputation for being responsive, people send you more messages, and it kind of feeds on itself.” Zeratsky said that he, too, once subscribed to the idea of Inbox Zero, before he realized it was burning him out.
As someone with an inbox closer to infinity than zero it’s unsurprising that this piece resonated but I reckon its message goes well beyond just email.
Loved this piece from @Gaby_Moss on 'Hustle Culture', the 'how I do it all' & 'entrepreneurial porn' (I wake at 4am, answer 1000 emails all on green smoothies & exercise etc).
Why it's toxic for women and why we still can't get enough. CC @KateAllman_https://t.co/gCzWpuozG4
— Angela Priestley (@angelapriestley) January 9, 2019
Do expectations not beget expectations? If you strive for more and better in every aspect of your life – your relationship, your job, your body, your diet, your home, your growth, your wellbeing, your productivity, your engagement – when does it end? When is anything enough?
Whether opting for less hustle is a cop out or a stroke of genius remains to be known but I am happy to spend 2019 testing it out.