This afternoon, when sitting at the beach for the second day in a row, I had one of those “should” moments we all experience from time to time.
“Is it right for me to be sitting here at 2 in the afternoon on a Thursday? Maybe I should be working,” I thought.
I quickly waved the thought away, applying more sunscreen as I watched my boys splashing in the water while Clara dug in the sand at my feet.
After all, we’ve had an unseasonably cool summer, and there just haven’t been that many hot, sunny days that have lent themselves to a leisurely afternoon on Lake Michigan. Living in a beach town, it would just be wasteful not to take advantage of the sand and waves when we can.
But more importantly, I’ve found that the summer – when my kids are all out of school and our schedule is turned upside-down and, more often than not, I have small people wandering in and out of my office while I work – is always an important reminder of the difference between “being busy” and “doing what needs to be done.”
Truth be told, my essential workload doesn’t change much in the summer. I still have client expectations to meet, stories to write and schedule, emails to answer.
What changes? My attitude.
Because our household routine is so much looser and my kids are around all day, I feel more free to take entire mornings or afternoons away from my computer to head to the beach, the park, the ice-cream shop.
I find myself fitting work around all the things I want to do before the summer is over, rather than trying to “fill up” work hours with productive-seeming activities that are often really just busy-work or wheel-spinning.
And as a result, I make a lot of hay in a very few hours each week, and I admit, I sometimes wind up feeling a little uncomfortable about it.
The “should” side of my brain asks: If what I’m doing has value, is genuine, is worth what I earn for it, shouldn’t it be taking up more of my time?
But let’s turn this on its head. Rather than feeling like I should be working more during the summer, what if I should actually be working less – or, to be clear, spending less time “working” on things that don’t matter – the rest of the year?
It’s pretty sobering and perspective-shifting when you look back over a three-month period and realize that the entirety of your essential “full-time” job could actually fit into a few hours a day.
It tells me a lot about the way I spend my time when I have more time to spend, and makes me question how “productive” I really am when I’m doing all that clicking and feed-sifting and typing, September through May.