On the merits of productive disengagement

September 9, 2015 liane

Thank you to those of you who have sent notes complaining about the dearth of posts this summer. It’s nice to know that you miss them! It’s been an eventful summer for me and my reaction was to think more and write less. My kids headed back to school Tuesday and our household is gearing up for fall. As I reflect back on the last couple of months, I realize that between lots of interesting work, I had a fruitfully unproductive summer.

Before I get back to the practical tips next week, allow me one post to share some of the amazing meanderings that recharged my batteries this summer. Maybe one or more will inspire you.

Sitting in silence

I have a husband, two kids, and a busy job. I rarely experience silence. (Did I mention the kids tap dance and play piano, clarinet, ukulele, and saxophone?) But a few times this summer, on long car rides, cycling adventures, or during early mornings alone, I got to experience the cocoon of silence. Those who know me will tell you that I’m an extrovert (understatement alert!!!). My default is to fill silence; if not with talking, then with music or radio. But this summer, I spent hours and hours (and hours) just with my thoughts. Not all of them (heck, not many of them) were profound, but a couple of them were. And I am different and clearer and happier because of them.

Tapping into my artistic side

One of the most fun things I did this summer was purchase the amazing new adult coloring book by Steve McDonald. That, and a 50 pack of pencil crayons, accounted for many hours of joy for me. Playing with color and form and just getting the simple satisfaction of going from an empty page to a full page gave me the sense of completion that we so rarely get at work. If you haven’t boarded the adult coloring bandwagon, I highly recommend you hop on. Check out Steve’s book Fantastic Cities. It will blow your mind. As a sample, here’s one of my works in progress. I figure this book will last me until I’m 87.

 

Reading random stuff

I am a huge fan of the online magazine service Next Issue. There are now hundreds of magazines available on my iPad for a low monthly fee (think Netflix for magazines). I like how portable it is and how cheap it is. But most importantly, I like how it frees me to read one or two articles from obscure magazines I would never have purchased. One of the most inspiring things I read this summer was an article from Fortune magazine called Humans are Underrated (thanks Seonaid for the recommendation). The author, Geoff Colvin, talks about how the most valuable human skills are changing in the era of machine learning. Check it out. Then the awesome Mitch Joel and his Six Links weekly email led me to another article on machine learning, which was amazing not only for its content, but for the new software that powered one of the most pleasing interfaces I have seen in a long time. Take a look at this snazzinessas you scroll and the story emerges before your eyes.

Reconnecting with the planet

I live in the heart of a big city. I love my city. Yet I worry that my family is very disconnected from agriculture. So I wanted a reminder that food doesn’t come from the grocery store. Given the dire state of honey bees lately, I thought it would be good to take the kids to an apiary. We found an amazing opportunity at La Lune de Miel (the Honey Moon) in Quebec.   There, the bee keepers have built an elaborate education center, including an active beehive with a Plexiglas wall. It allowed us to watch the hive in action and to see the incredible activity going on to build the honeycomb, fill it with honey, and seal it with beeswax. It was absolutely awe inspiring. It was topped off with a tasting where we learned how radically different honey tastes depending on which flowers the bees collected their nectar from. If you haven’t done it, find a local bee keeper and sample some different honeys. My favorite was the honey made from the nectar of apple blossoms.

I’m probably missing several activities of productive disengagement that I tried this summer. And I’m sure you can think of many more. That’s the point. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to accomplish things and to get ahead that I miss the value of doing nothing, or doing things for the joy of the process rather than the outcome. (No, I’m not going to frame my coloring and hang it on the wall.)

I hope you enjoyed some of your own productive disengagement this summer. If not, fall offers amazing opportunities not to be missed.

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