Musings

Mindful Work

I’ve been on vacation for the last week, and for a few more days still. Normally vacations are anticipated and well-planned, but this was a vacation of necessity, an oh-shit realisation that I hadn’t taken real, disconnected, sustained time off in a few years, and that both my body and mind needed a break, now.

As it took me too long to realise, I could either keep working less efficiently each week, letting down a team I love so much and wearing down gradually until the stars aligned, the blue moon rose and a perfect vacation opportunity showed up, or I could take a reset break. Sanity (and my boss’s encouragement) prevailed, and here I am.

“A manager’s output is not her individual work, but instead the output of her organization plus that of the neighboring organizations under her influence. She should shift energy and attention to activities what will most increase organizational output, e.g. moving to the point where her leverage is greatest.” — Andy Grove, High Output Management

That’s been a tough lesson to learn as my role at SitePoint expands. My work is no longer about publishing articles, finding new authors, paying invoices or creating lists of topics we should cover. Those tasks are all simple to me, I can do them all fairly quickly and tick the boxes. That’s a lot more instantly satisfying, and a lot less daunting, than the actual work that I need to do: see what’s next, guide the team, help each person grow, look beyond what we’re doing now.

I spent the first four days of my vacation at an ashram, on a sweet friend’s recommendation. There my cell phone stayed locked in the car. I slept on a thin mattress in a bare room, woke up at five-thirty each morning for yoga and meditation, cleaned toilets and showers, and worked in the garden. We ate in silence, did our own dishes. I read for hours each evening.

Most of the day was spent on karma yoga, mindful work. I spent hours harvesting seeds from dried lupine plants, sitting on a chair in the shade, my fingernail splitting open the pod, my thumb sliding the seeds onto a plate. There was no music, no Netflix, no podcast, no conversation. And, amazingly, my mind didn’t wander much. When it did, as in meditation, I gently guided it back to the task: focus on this plant, on this pod, on this seed. I wasn’t racing to finish as quickly as I could, there was no to-do list of plants to seed. It was mindful work.

The second half of this vacation has a slight bit of pressure on it: it feels like I should be resting more productively, maybe setting up a new bullet journal, maybe brainstorming what to keep and what to let go. I should be set to hit the ground running next week. Instead, I’m still drifting a bit. What’s next needs to be a real change, and I don’t think I’ll get to that by doing what I’ve always done (more, more). It might be time to do less, less.

1 thought on “Mindful Work”

  1. Four days in an ashram? Great! I used to have the same kind of speedy lief before. I now live in an ashram-like (not easy to explain here)… easy to say now, but the previous life was really toxic, even if I didn’t realise it at that time. Not wanting to blame in any sense, having just 4 days is like getting exhausting a bit the pressure… and everything starts back again just a few weeks (days?) later. OK for 4 days, but imagine a whole life… woaw! Destiny is a reality. It shall either come from inside or outside. From inside if the will for a cleaner life is/becomes your top priority. From outside if events show/drive you the way. What’s next?

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