Embrace the OFF

I started doing triathlons after my freshman year in college and over the next three years I began to train more and more. Nevertheless, I always kept one off day which was also called “game day”. Attending a school with a large football program tends to make Saturdays a bit more of a holiday/party atmosphere than you might find in some other towns across the nation. With these kind of distractions each fall, it was easy to take a day away from studying and training.

It was when the spring semesters came around that I started to see the value in these Saturdays away from training and school. The difference was that it was no longer really “forced” upon me. It was up to me to draw the line on a time when I would shut down from production in order to recharge physically, emotionally and mentally. It is often more difficult to decide for yourself when enough is enough. I know I can get caught up in trying to fill any down time with production. But just like alternating easy and hard training, I needed my off time to allow for more qualitative “on” time.

Fast forward a decade or so and I still need these moments of complete shutdown. My two jobs, EC Operator and Pro Athlete, allow for a great level of flexibility. I can often decide how and when I want to get work accomplished. This is a beneficial situation to have; but it can also lend itself to always being “on.” There is no reason I can’t always be available or working in some capacity with this flexibility. If I don’t draw the line, I find that I lack the mental capacity to focus (at my highest level) on the task at hand. In order to ensure some down time still exists, I set specific priorities to each day of the week. Typically, each day will prioritize one of three things: training, work or recovery. When recovery is at the top of the list (still typically Saturdays for me), I try to keep myself away from production. By shutting down and recharging entirely, I can handle my “on” days at a better and higher level.

We all live busy lives and we usually only place structure and goals around tangible things (work, training, errands, etc). If you strive on to-do lists, then I would suggest you formalize some moments where you can completely shut down, whether it’s for a brief — or extended — period of time.

Resist the urge to check the Blackberry every time it vibrates and start to embrace the off.