Work Begets Work

Have you ever sat down at the end of a busy day of work and thought, “I can’t believe I accomplished so much in such a short time?”

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend, wondering how you could have spent almost an entire day without doing anything productive?

That’s because work begets work, and leisure begets leisure. 

Looking back at the month of May, I saw an interesting pattern. It was by far the busiest month of my school year. I had eight concerts (daytime and evening) and went through most of the process of recruiting students for band at both schools. These capstone events, the most important of my year, were on top of my usual teaching duties. One would think, given the hectic nature of my job at the time, I would have had less time (or at least less energy) to devote to writing, exercise and leisure.

And yet, looking back at the calendar I keep to track my habits in these areas, I find that my productivity actually went up for non-school activities. I spent several more hours exercising and attended more cardio and yoga classes than I had in April. More importantly, I reached my goal of an additional 20,000 words on my novel re-write, and while I had about a week of silence on this blog, I still posted six times throughout the month. I also wrote and published a guest post on DIY MFA. Based on that article and two previous ones, I was asked to write a regular column. (Very excited about this!)

Lest I neglect my family life, I also managed to keep a clean house and a healthy diet, have two luxurious dates with my husband, and spend many hours with my son playing outside, making waffles and cookies, listening to records, and spilling Lincoln Logs all over the floor. (We don’t actually build anything, just examine the pieces and then enjoy the sound they make when dropped back into the tin bucket. He’s still two.)

I even had time for several naps, book reading, and one wonderful massage.

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? The summer I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, I did almost nothing. Looking back over my journal entries, I see that I had one or two plans per day, few of which took more than a couple of hours. I wasn’t writing much, teaching much or learning anything new. I didn’t have any expectations for my time, so I didn’t use it in any profitable way. I’m not saying there was anything wrong with that. On the contrary, it was good for me to take a break, and I know I need to do that now and then for my own sanity. But in those journal entries, I often wrote that I was frustrated by my own lack of motivation, and bored when I didn’t plan enough for myself. Why couldn’t I get anything done when I had all that time?

The answer was that my days had no structure. When you’re busy, time is precious, so you prioritize. You decide what needs doing, and you make it fit in the time you have. You have no choice; it needs to be done, so you figure out how, and you do it. You’re often tired at the end of the day, but you also feel a deep sense of accomplishment, an inner contentment that you carry with you through the stressful moments.

When you’re not busy, time becomes fluid, meaningless. You could do something today, or you could do it tomorrow. Since it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t get done.

There’s an old saying that if you want something to get done, ask the busiest person you know. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. Busy people know how to get stuff done.

(But in case you’re thinking of asking me for something, I might have to go on vacation first.)


2 Responses to “Work Begets Work”

  1. Carrie Willard says:

    It’s true! My mom used to tell me, when I was too tired to wash the dishes, that “energy begets energy”. Also heard as ” a body in motion tends to stay in motion ” and “a rolling stone gathers no moss”.

  2. Leanne Sowul says:

    Your mom was very wise, Carrie! I believe all those things too. Of course, everyone reaches a limit at some point, so it’s important to recognize and respond to physical and mental shutdown.

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