My mind has been scrambled the last couple days. I don't know why, it came on very suddenly. I've made massive strides over the two weeks before - I accomplished about six months worth of work over two weeks. I felt on top of the world. I wasn't even very tired afterwards, I felt good, ready to go.
Then yesterday, just bzzt - nothing. Foggy, almost like confusion. Couldn't focus at all. Strange. I said, y'know what? I haven't had a day off in a while, I'm just going to take the day off. Went and sat at a cafe and listened to some audio for about four hours, walked around and saw the city, went and had a massage, and then sat and ate fruit. Spend like 10 hours in a row just thinking and relaxing, which is good, I don't take full days off very often. I had some good ideas when I was out at the cafe and took some extensive notes, so I got some production out of it too without even trying to.
Now, I wish I could say, "And then I was recharged, and today I was awesome!" But no, I woke up in a fog again. Damn this. I track my time and have some routines to keep me running well, but I was foggy despite it, unable to focus really. Suck, what is this?
I was working, but it was half-working. Now, half-working is a big problem in my opinion. Half-working tires you out as much or more than real full working, but you get about 5% as much stuff done. Yes, 5%. Good work requires something like focus. It doesn't necessarily require the highest levels of focus and flow (though that stuff is very good), but it requires working through the mentally difficult parts when they come up. The worst part about half-work is you cruise through the easy enough stuff, then stumble on a difficult part.
This is doubly bad, because when you come back to your work, you're staring the hardest part in the face. This sucks, you need to kind of regroup and double down to get re-started while staring a difficult or complex part of work in the face. But again, I was in that mental fog and so I start half-working on it, and then I wander off again. And I try to come back to the work, but then - bam, there's this hard problem staring me right in the face, that I already failed to conquer twice.
In this way, half-work tires you out more than real work. Real work is cool, you work through it, you feel good and accomplished. Half-work is brutal, because you keep getting defeated, and you keep spending time in the worst part of it accomplishing nothing.
Around 2PM, I say, "This isn't any good. I'm either going to go for a run or take a nap. Which should I --zzzzzzzzzzz" - so the question answered itself.
But then I woke up only three hours later, still in a fog. Ah, what is this madness? I've been riding extremely high for three weeks, and had a solid entire month before that, and I'm back in a fog. I don't want to be in a fog and I shouldn't be in a fog. What is this?
More half-work. Okay, Sebastian, cut this out, this solves nothing. Stop half-working. I go out for a while, have dinner, they get two dishes wrong (sugar in the coffee I ordered and the wrong vegetable dish), but I don't even bother correcting them, I just skip the coffee and accept the vegetables. I go to buy a USB headset from an electronics store, but then they say it'll be a 2.5% extra charge if I pay by credit card. And I say, "No, that's not okay." And the guy says, well, that's what it is. So I leave the store.
Outside, I'm now confused. I didn't buy that cheap headset because it was 2.5% more? I'm in a fog. I'm not thinking clearly.
There's an inexpensive spa nearby that only costs 170,000 VND for 90 minutes of essential oils and hot rocks and things like that. I go in, piano music is playing softly, hot rocks, there's a nice fishtank and I zone out and look at that. This is better than half-working, I'm now recharging instead of having my batteries run down for no reason.
I come back to my friend's home where I'm staying, and he wants to go over some strategy and planning with me. I'm foggy at first, and then, BAM, my mind shifts into gear and I'm on and I'm thinking clearly again. This is good, I feel like me again, and my output has been good since then.
I'm all for powering through the pain and forcing myself to do something I think is valuable but difficult - whether it be exercising, or forcing myself to sit down and write, or to do something otherwise taxing or difficult or scary. Discipline is good. But sometimes, I think it takes discipline to realize you're at your limits for whatever reason, and to rest and recharge. I ran myself into the ground from '04 to '08 with lots of work, lots of travel, running a main company, building up a good side project, and studying business full-time at the same time. Lots of time I'd be finishing my homework on an airplane back to Boston, I'd stop at the bank with my luggage still with me, wire money to a contractor, go home, drop my luggage off, head over to the computer lab to print my paper, head to class, then stay up and work in a database for a few hours before sleeping. 100 hour workweeks weren't anything particularly rare.
I didn't listen when my body said it was at my limit for about five years, and then I crashed for almost all of '09, I was just reading books and being rather reclusive. I'm a big believer in disciplining and willpowering through difficult tasks, but sometimes I think you gotta accept when you're at the limit and cool your heels, even if it doesn't make sense and you'd rather you weren't at your limit . It seems a little wasteful to get a massage yesterday and go to a spa today - this is the sort of thing I'd do every week to two weeks at most, but recharging and keeping myself out of the half-work daze has got to be top priority. Either producing, flowing, accomplishing, or resting, recharging, rebuilding. No halfway measures - halfway means no work gets done but I get run down in the process. That's a losing formula in the long run.
The other observation I've got - helping other people is a good way to pull out of a haze. When it's for yourself primarily, it's easier to indulge in low energy or distraction or fogginess. For someone else, you've got to snap to a little bit more and build/fix/plan/accomplish things together. I think that's my new M.O. for where I get into a fog - rest for a while, then start calling everyone I know and like to see what I could help them with. I should probably put together a list of like 30 people that I'll call in order when I get into a fog, and whoever's around that needs something done I'll put my talents to use for them. It's hard to half-work when you're linked up with someone strong and virtuous and doing good things together.
Don't half-work! Work, or don't work. Half-work ruins your mind while solving nothing. Break through and do real work, or respect your body and recharge. To jump back into the flow, help someone else you respect do something, that'll pull you out of the fog.
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