the seasons of energy

2021-05-09

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~3 min read

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520 words

Sometimes, the simplest things can surprise you. I recently had the luxury of taking a week off of work to rest and relax. I spent the time out west with my wife’s family, sitting outside and reading or going on walks before enjoying large family meals. It was lovely and the first time I’d been able to not think about work for more than a few days in well over a year.

The really interesting thing, however, was not the time away - it was how energized I was when I returned! Stepping back, even for a few days, helped me think about work in a different way. I have a laundry list as long as my arm full of things that I’m excited to tackle. I got a new burst of energy for my workouts. In short, I’m firing on all cylinders.

If you’d asked me before if I was in a funk, I would have said no. I still don’t think that would be the right description, however, it’s very clear I was tired and I’d started to lag a bit.

It turns out a vacation, like meditation and exercise and all of the other things we do for ourselves that help but are so easy to skip because it’s not at all clear in the moment how they help, can make a big difference!

As I was thinking about how I could best harness this new burst of energy this week, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance when he mentioned sabbaticals, which he noted drew from the idea of the sabbath.1

The word that came to mind when I was thinking about this was seasons. In work, and in life, everything seems to be cyclical and as someone who grew up with seasons, I love the variation. Not all seasons are equal - some are more enjoyable than others, some are shorter, some longer, etc., but they all come back around.

Thinking about my energy levels this week - it was remarkable to think about it from a macro level - where I am compared in my job, relative to where I was a year ago, or five, and then zooming in to the current sprint at work.

This in turn reminded me of an old blog post by Dustin Moskowitz, The work-rest fractal. Fractal is probably an even better word for the phenomenon than seasons. That you recognize the same shape as you zoom in/out is amazing and that’s exactly what I was recognizing.

work-life fractal

The vacation, and the jolt of energy I got from it, was just the shift I needed to appreciate how energy fluctuates, but that’s all part of living a full life. We can’t always run at 11.

Footnotes

  • 1 Sabbaticals are popular in higher education, one of the few fields that continues to value them, though I suppose that is in large part because very few other fields have a concept of life-time employment still. If you want a sabbatical in most businesses, you take them between jobs - or you run your own business.

Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!