Getting On the Treadmill of Life

Lifehack.org has a post entitled, Getting Off the Treadmill of Life. In this entry, K. Stone lists 8 really great ideas for slowing down, disconnecting and changing pace when life gets overwhelming. The tips include things like playing hooky, changing perspective or location, taking naps, etc.

All fantastic tips for the person who has a more traditional working life. That person who leaves the house at approximately the same time every weekday morning, focuses on work and is surrounded by work colleagues for 8 hours, and returns to family or personal pursuits at the end of the day. Maybe they work at home during the evening, or maybe their work routine doesn’t begin at 9 am. Still, their treadmill of life does indeed need a little dismounting from time to time.

What about us?

I looked at this list, and thought of my life as a telecommuter and freelancer working in burst mode 90% of the time, and I realized that most of what Lifehack.org describes as “getting off the treadmill” is already part of my life. If I don’t have a crunching deadline, I take a cat nap. I work out of a Panera Bread from time to time when I feel like it. I make personal appointments around my conference call schedule and deadlines without worrying about checking in with colleagues since they can easily reach me on my Blackberry if necessary and I can be as productive as I need to be, when I need to be. Every day is structurally and routinely very different. Is my life stress-free? Not by a long shot.

So perhaps due to our unique working style we don’t need to get off the treadmill of life. Perhaps to clarify focus and achieve peace and balance we need to get on the treadmill every now and then.

For those of us who are already face-to-face socially disconnected and isolated, being part of the rat race has its advantages. We have deadlines and pressures like everyone else. But the ability to spread our work out over 24 hours, working in bursts of productivity separated by more frequent breaks (for doing things like sleeping and eating, among other activities) and family/household commitments can be a disadvantage as well as a blessing.

A few ideas for breaking up the routine of having less routine:

Act like you’re going to a traditional job. Get up at a set time. Get dressed. Get in your car…or better yet, walk around the block as it’s better for the environment…commute. Even if you end up right back where you started. When work is done for the day and you know you need to transition back to a personal life, pack up your stuff and head out. Leave the house and take the same route you did in the morning. Embrace what’s good about commuting.

Work out of a traditional office every once in a while. A coffee shop isn’t the same. Every 3 weeks or so I take the 200 mile each way trip to our organization’s headquarters in Virginia (I’m in New Jersey). All those things that cubicle workers complain about come as welcome relief. No household chores calling. Coffee made for you without waiting on line for it. Water cooler talk and the ability to bounce ideas off the person next to you. I am incredibly productive on my office visit days, more than I would be if I worked off that desk every day. Even the commute doesn’t feel like drudgery since I don’t do it often. I take the train and look forward to the chance to catch up on podcasts or reading. Here are some tips for making the most of your visit. Co-working can be a good substitute if you don’t have an office location to travel to.

Yes, we found it silly as a way of proving credibility to outside callers, but maybe the sounds of a “thriving office” can help make you feel more connected to the working rat-race.

Is there anything about the “grind” of more traditional employment that you’d like to try and put back in your life?

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