Every year I go through what my friend Meredith would refer to as a “work fugue.” In other words, a period of intense deadline stress, when the amount of work I have to do seems physically impossible to accomplish in the amount of time allotted.
Everything unrelated to completing the projects on deadlines gets put on the back burner, and I power through. Forget about spending time on my “Important Work.” Forget about spending time with friends and loved ones. And exercise, sleep and nutrition? Ha!
It is not a period of high quality of life.
In a good year, my work fugue might be a couple of weeks. In some memorably bad years it was 3 months at a stretch, or even more. Whatever the time period, the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that it will eventually come to an end.
I’m in one of these work fugues right now.
In fact, I really have no business writing a blog post. But the irony of the work fugue is that I rebel against it and “steal” time away. And I somehow manage to always get my critical projects done, even though every time I have a work fugue I fear that I won’t.
(I seem to have a supernatural ability to unconsciously know how much time a given project will take me, and push it right to the edge.)
I also had no business taking a break on Saturday night to go to the opera, or on Sunday to have tea with a friend and take a walk by the Bay, or last night to go to a Linchpin Meetup.
But I did.
And you know what? Although it hasn’t helped my stress level to use that precious time on other things than my deadline projects, it’s helped my quality of life, which in turn does help my stress level.
Because I’m slightly adrenalinized due to my anxiety over my deadlines, and probably won’t calm down until I do something that feels like I’m making progress on my urgent projects, I’m going to keep this post short. I just wanted to share that when I’m in a work fugue, doing things that make me happy – spending time with fun and interesting people, going on walks, doing my creative stuff – even just a little bit, actually helps.
There’s only so much powering through a person can do without driving yourself to an early grave.
Periods of imbalance are inevitable (and are perhaps even necessary to live an overall balanced life?) But injecting tiny bits of balance, even when you feel like you “can’t,” can make the difference between suffering through weeks of misery, and living through weeks of tolerable stress.
I’m glad I finally figured this out.