Oliver Burkeman: How to choose sanity now

Today’s email from Oliver Burkeman was on a topic that walloped me upside the head: How to choose sanity now. (Hope that link works!)

Here’s why: I am all caught up on my $DAYJOB work, one of those bliss states I’ve always imagined: no deadlines, no backlogs, time to work on projects of interest only to myself. And I’m totally at loose ends. I’m a tech writer (started as a reporter), so deadlines have long been a feature of my professional life. With that guardrail gone, I am feeling kind of freaked-out at the wide-open field of possible choices for spending my time, energy, and attention.

And as I’m 62 (nearing retirement age), I’m wondering: is this how I will feel when the $DAYJOB is gone?

In reading Burkeman’s work, and others’ as well, what I’m doing about this feeling is nothing. Just sitting with the feeling, detecting where it is in my body, and not trying to make myself “feel better.”

Instead of seeking short-term mood repair (the predominant cause of procrastination, according to the research), I will see what non-dayjob things need to be done. I live in a cohousing condo, so there’s always some task to be done. And after those tasks, maybe just…enjoy myself?

I’m one of those people who is baffled by the word “fun”, so enjoying myself feels like giving myself another task to stress about. But perhaps just giving myself permission (a technique I practice for others but not for myself) to feel both giddy and at loose ends is all that’s needed right now.

Burkeman is a recovering productivity geek who nevertheless still is looking for ways to live the good life without causing overmuch internal tension and strife. His fortnightly newsletter. The Imperfectionist, is the bee’s knees.

Michael E Brown @brownstudy