An Unsustainable Rhythm

June 12, 2022

This past week had me feeling like I was on a train and couldn’t get off.

After I got back from traveling for about a month, I settled back into my normal routine, doing my normal work. But then there was a minor crisis in my Toastmasters club and I was best positioned to take care of it. In short, we needed to elect new club officers, but the people who were supposed to prepare for the elections and encourage others to run for positions didn’t do their work.

I care a lot about my Toastmasters club, so as a past president of the club, I jumped in last minute to find candidates, to encourage them to run, to organize the elections, and to host the elections meeting. This work is well within my capacity, but it all came on top of my normal work and—this is the crux—it had to be done in less than a week.

Hence why I felt like I was on a train and couldn’t get off. My days did not feel like my days. I had committed myself to doing whatever it took to address this problem in my Toastmasters club—and to do it quickly. That meant I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to have to rest, to go for a walk, or to get to a litany of smaller tasks.

It felt, really, like my days were scheduled for me and I had no choice.

This is not a new feeling to me. I often felt this way in my job as a litigation consultant. In the years since then, I’ve felt this way now and then when various commitments collided and my calendar got too full and deadlines approached too rapidly.

In the past few years, though, this feeling had been rare for me. I have scheduled my life with lots of breathing room. That breathing room feels great, but also helps me do creative work like making videos.

It occurred to me that many people—perhaps you included—feel like they’re on that train and can’t get off every single day of every single week. Maybe you hardly know, hardly remember, what it is like not to be on that train.

Having little control over your days is fine for a while, but it is no way to live your entire life. Without rest, you won’t do your best work. Without agency, you will feel resentful. And without the time to take care of smaller things, they will pile up and eventually create a mess.

Fortunately, in my case, I only made a short-term commitment. I have now finished my emergency Toastmasters work and the elections went smoothly. We have a great new set of club officers. I am back to a sustainable pace of work.

What about you, though? If you’re on that train, will you get off anytime soon?

Don’t kid yourself. Most people I know who are on that train have been on it for years. They’re not getting off until they change something about their circumstances. Usually it requires a new job, a new business, or dropping some responsibilities.

And nobody will do that for you.

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