Anna Pastak // March 05 2019

Hours of nothingness

As part of our corporate culture actitivities, we have Value Weeks at the Digitalist Studios worldwide. This week is themed Care, and it entitles different challenges for our people to remember to take care of each other and themselves. For me, this is one of the values I cherish the most in the culture work we do, and especially the emphasis on taking care of oneself.

As I have worked at Digitalist for almost six months now, I have seen and experienced a lot. Some things I have taken for granted, but some have been a very pleasant surprise. Probably everyone working on different projects and juggling many balls in the air at once sometimes feels like they are constantly running without moving anywhere. I’ve had those moments. But mostly my feeling working for Digitalist has been very tranquil as I feel there are initiatives and ideas at work, that are specifically designed to make us feel better, to take care of us. No matter how much a company has processes and initiatives in place to take care of the employees and make the employee experience best possible, the responsibility for our own wellbeing is still on our shoulders.

As a person of great enthusiasm for many different things and as someone who rarely rests and just chills, as I’m always doing something, I tend to put myself in overdrive at times. I skip gym to get a work project done. I sleep 6 hours instead of 8 to get some household project finished. I pinch hours off my own wellbeing to get something done. Completed. And this is how many people nowadays are. We feel important when we are constantly rushing and accomplishing things. We have so many things going on, that standing still gives us this itch, as we know that the deadlines are pouring down and uncompleted projects need to be taken care of. It’s hard to take time to relax and just wipe our minds empty of anything stressful and let our brain have a little chill session. Though it is proven, that stress may in fact destroy productivity, most western people are stressed out and can’t focus on anything.

As someone who went through a light version of burn out earlier in my life due to health issues, Uni studies and working full-time all at once, I am very vigilant about any signs of stress. Also as someone who has worked alone and independently for years, it has taken me some time to get adjusted to working in a team. And while it might add some additional stress here and there, having a great team and a caring company, is something that really helps to deal with those little stressful parts of the job. When you look at any info in regards with taking care of yourself, there are same things repeated over and over. ”Drink enough water, eat regularly, sleep minimum 8 hours a night, exercise regularly.” It all sounds easy-peasy hunky dory, but actually even that might present a challenge.

What if there is a baby or a toddler at home, who doesn’t allow you to sleep the amount of hours that your body requires? And with a crazy schedule of meetings a regular healthy diet might turn into picking up fast-food at a local joint to just get you through the day. And don’t even start me on exercise as sometimes in the busy life of having a career and a family you have to choose between a shower and a breakfast. The thing is, all those things don’t seem life threatening. So what if I don’t have breakfast or only sleep 6 hours a night? It’s not like that’s going to get me killed. As it is not life threatening, a productive and completion-oriented person might easily feel even guilty of taking time for oneself. Going for a massage or an afterwork with friends, or just relaxing while doing something one enjoys like watching a movie or listening to music, might feel like it’s not allowed. It makes you feel guilty, as there is so much more you could be doing with your time. There are the needs of family, friends, house, work and so on. It’s easy to put every other need before something that is not considered very important anyway.

It might not kill you right then and there, but it poses a great risk on your health. And, even more importantly, it has a huge effect on your personality.

Let’s face it. Who do we want to work with? Happy, energetic people who are feeling well, are full of bright ideas and who don’t have crazy mood-swings. Am I right? That’s at least the people I want to work with. So when we talk about taking care of people, there is a lot we can do. Yes, we can smile and say hello to everyone at the office. We can ask if someone needs some help or help someone out spontaneously. We can do a lot of small gestures that help one person or few people. But what is the most important is that we take care of ourselves. Not just for us, but for the people we work with. Being a colleague is a little bit like being in a relationship. Unhappy partner usually means that the relationship is not doing too well. Same goes at work. Before you can start caring for others, you need to make yourself a number one priority. With all those basic needs of sleep, eat, exercise, water and rest, you are working on yourself, to make yourself the best possible colleague and partner.

In a week there is 168 hours out of which a person should sleep for about 56 hours. That leaves you with around 112 hours of time to do whatever it is you do while awake. I challenge everyone to take out a notebook and start scribbling down what you do during those hours. You don’t need to make a note of everything, just the moments when you do something just for yourself, not out of necessity or need, but out of just wanting to do something that makes you feel well. How many hours a week you will get? Divide the number you get by 112 and see what is the percentage of you enjoying your life and taking care of yourself. Think about yourself in an elderly home in the future, looking back at your life. What would that person consider to be a good percentage? Make that a priority goal in life and work towards it. With small, dedicated steps.

For me, it is at least 20 %. 20 % of my life needs to be something that makes me happy, makes me relaxed, let’s me unwind and enjoy life. Though I enjoy my work, this is different. It’s something that has no strings attached, no need for productivity, nothing that is necessary. It’s just anything I enjoy, no matter how pointless or unproductive. That’s approximately 23 hours weekly. It sounds a lot, doesn’t it? Like a part-time job actually. Well, it is. It is your job to take care of yourself and you can’t do that without putting in some hours.

Give it a go! Challenge yourself to see how many hours a week you actually spend taking care of the most important person of your life. When I kept a diary like this for one week, I realised I spent less than 5 % of my time on just myself, doing nothing but enjoying life. It scared me and it made me prioritise better. And now I’m more productive, more efficient and better at everything I do, as I work to have those hours of nothingness.

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