119. How to escape from your job search and not feel guilty.
If you feel guilty for taking time off or believe you can speed up your success and achieve your career goals by speeding through life, this episode is for you. In it, I discuss the importance of taking time out, and why it is not only beneficial for your health, it can be, alas, the reason you succeed. Go figure!
Domenico De Masi is Professor Emeritus of Labor Sociology at La Sapienza University in Rome. He founded the School of Specialization in Organizational Sciences and writes about country cultures, economic systems, such as socialism and capitalism, and how we are influenced by religious beliefs ideological philosophies (illuminism, liberalism) in the post-industrial world. His goal is to help us uncover the best future for our society, where progress is measured by the quality of life and happiness. He coined the term creative boredom - ozio criativo - in a book by the same name that unfortunately hasn't been translated to English.
I was hugely influenced by De Masi's book, Ozio Creativo, many decades ago when it came out. I have seen it referenced in English-written articles and referred to as creative idleness or creative leisure. I believe the proper translation is creative boredom, but it may push people away because we are afraid of being bored and unproductive.
I can only find the work on "productive escapism" in English-written research, which is closely linked to Domenico's creative boredom. But I find the choice of words jarring. Still, if it makes you take notice and adopt time out, it's a win.
The "white space" creative boredom creates gives us such great benefits. On writing for the BBC on Creative Boredom during covid, Claire Thorp stated: "Boredom is not in itself creative – it's what it leads to that is important. And that is why I love boredom and insist my clients seek it out".
The writer Joseph Conrad once said, "How can I explain to my wife that when I look outside the window, I am working?". Ideally, we shouldn't have to explain why we need time to just be, but we often feel the need to explain since we are not producing anything.
De Masi introduced me to creative boredom, meditation, leisure, and the love and appreciation of art and beauty, which coincidentally is my top character strength. Maybe he didn't introduce me to it but made me feel ok about the fact that I wasn't and will never be all systems go. I have many loves and passions, and I need creative boredom in my life. I believe it enriches my work.
I spent the past 2 months insisting my clients take proper holidays.
- Many didn't take as much as I'd hoped for, unfortunately
- They promised themselves they would do homework (for the coaching), then they didn't. Now they feel bad about it, whereas I think it's for the best.
I have also noticed that from time to time, a new client starts working with me and wants to bring forward our sessions. I like to space them out, so we have a session every 10 to 14 days. And they hope to have a session every week. However, the cadence of our coaching work is there for a reason. We need time to learn from each other and come up with the best strategies, following some self-reflection and conversations. Bringing the sessions forward will not make the client more successful or speed up their results.
The importance of breaks:
According to De Masi, it's important to do the following to lead a fulfilling life:
- Not all breaks are truly productive: I believe we truly need a break from screens, don't you think?
- Don't trust your brain to hold information: Your brain is not for storage. It's a creative organ. It dreams, it creates, it plans. You need to download it often! Have a notepad in hand.
- Long breaks are useless if you don't take short breaks: many people save dozens and dozens of leave days only to have a mental breakdown for never taking time off. Give yourself a long weekend and a short nap during the day!
The great escape:
Below is a list of my favorite ways to escape from work day to day, that doesn't require a lot of planning:
- Reading a book: fiction mostly, not self-help/management books
- Listening to music: works the best for me
- Exercising: Swimming works best for me, team sports are probably the same. Walking still keeps my mind at work
- Meditating: guided meditation at first.
- Dancing: can be awkward, but it's so important. I bought a mini trampoline
- Watching a great TV show or movie. We are re-watching West Wing at home, but there are so many great, well-written, well-acted tv series to choose from.
- Art: Andre and I love a museum (many are free!), musicals, opera. If you can, watching it live is the best.
- Driving: We are big fans, and go for long drives almost every weekend. We are also planning another big 2-week drive holiday for 2022.
- Cooking: New escapism for me. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know already!
- Gardening: Absolutely my best escapism together with swimming.
- Do nothing: just sit somewhere comfortable and do nothing, say nothing, think nothing. It's the best feeling.
We should not have to distinguish the time we spend working from the time we spend doing other things. In a post-industrial world, post-pandemic world, looking forward to industry 4.0, 5.0 and jobs of the future, workers at home being useful and productive, flexibility now more and more accepted by employers and society, we may need to re-think our definitions of how we work, play and rest.
Don't be afraid of taking time off from work and job-hunting. Don't judge yourself, and don't let others judge you.