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April 21, 2011

I may or may not have just shut my door, pulled my curtain closed and danced barefoot in my office to this song by Adele.

It’s good for the soul – a midday barefoot dance. A loud sing-a-long. A graham cracker and milk snack. A ride down the slide. A trip across the monkey bars. A moment to escape and run and laugh and fall into sandboxes and chase butterflies.

For kids, recess is a scheduled part of the day — because it’s good for them. Because we’re humans, not robots. Because our brains are best when we master the beautiful balance of focus and free time. My husband has had the audio book, Rework, playing in his truck. It’s a fascinating book about building smart businesses, and I especially enjoy the sentiment on workaholism, a ubiquitous trait amongst many in modern times. The quote:

Our culture celebrates the idea of the workaholic. We hear about people burning the midnight oil. They pull all- nighters and sleep at the office. It’s considered a badge of honor to kill yourself over a project. No amount of work is too much work.

Not only is this workaholism unnecessary, it’s stupid. Working more doesn’t mean you care more or get more done. It just means you work more. Workaholics wind up creating more problems than they solve. First off, working like that just isn’t sustainable over time. When the burnout crash comes — and it will — it’ll hit that much harder.

Workaholics miss the point, too. They try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them. They try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force. This results in inelegant solutions. They even create crises. They don’t look for ways to be more efficient because they actually like working overtime. They enjoy feeling like heroes. They create problems (often unwittingly) just so they can get off on working more.

Workaholics make the people who don’t stay late feel inadequate for “merely” working reasonable hours. That leads to guilt and poor morale all around. Plus, it leads to an butt-in-seat mentality — people stay late out of obligation, even if they aren’t really being productive.

In the end, workaholics don’t actually accomplish more than nonworkaholics. They may claim to be perfectionists, but that just means they’re wasting time fixating on inconsequential details instead of moving on to the next task.

Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.

I find this quote interesting because we are all trying to do more, be more and accomplish more — often to the sacrifice of important things in our lives. But by seeing down time, “recess” if you will, as a means to be more productive, more alert and more professional when you are working, then it becomes just as important as any other task.

Same goes for parenting: we must give ourselves the “refresh” time we need to be all we can be for our kids. Because we can’t give what we don’t have – whether we’re employees, parents, friends or spouses.

So go ahead. Kick off your shoes. Adele is waiting.

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