It is strange, perhaps, to open an issue dedicated to helping readers get more done with a caveat about overdoing. But as a person prone to doing just that, I feel it is, um — the right thing to do.
Indeed, while I follow most of this magazine’s excellent advice most of the time, the piece that poses the biggest challenge for me is not the healthy eating, nor the regular exercise. It’s that pesky life-balance bit — setting boundaries around work, making time for play and relaxation, and recognizing that I can’t possibly get absolutely everything done all the time — certainly not to my own satisfaction.
Hello. My name is Pilar, and I am a chronic over-doer. I’m in recovery now, but I often open a talk I give on “How to Stay Healthy Through Stressful Times” with the story of how, before I got a little smarter about all of this, I suffered from rashes, hormonal imbalances and even a broken foot (long story — you can read it in “The High Cost of Being Hurried”).
This was all the result of chronic overdoing. And when I relate my story, I always see a lot of heads in the audience nodding, like, “Wow, yeah, we can relate.”
I think this particular area of challenge helps keep me, and this magazine, honest. Because I know how hard it can be to get it all done — the wholesome cooking, the conscious eating, the regular activity, the time with family and friends, the yoga and meditation, the daily supplements — and to do so in a healthy non-frantic way while balancing a super-intense workload.
I also know how tempting it can be to just pour on the adrenaline and start rushing around like a lunatic whenever our schedules seem to demand more than our bodies and minds can possibly deliver. But that approach is neither sustainable, nor particularly satisfying.
That’s why I appreciate point No. 6 in our feature article, “As Good as Done,”: Accept Your Limitations. I also appreciate this issue’s many other suggestions aimed at helping all of us develop the serenity and skills to accomplish the things that really matter, the faith and courage to let go of the things that don’t, and, perhaps above all, the wisdom to know the difference.
With that in mind, here are the top three lessons I’ve learned from personal experience over the past 10 years working on this magazine:
1. Take breaks. Interrupting a relentless workload with breaks — whether for daydreaming, naps, activity, deep breathing, social interaction or even trips to the bathroom — allows your brain and body to recharge and come back focused and reenergized. Scientific research definitively shows that we get more done, and experience far fewer negative effects, if we take a 10- to 20-minute break every hour and a half to two hours. So take breaks, even if you don’t feel like it.
2. Train for intense times. Healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep are always important. But they’re even more important when you are putting major demands on your body, as stress always does.
3. Ask for help. This has never been my strong suit, but I’ve noticed that the better I get at inviting others to do the things I’m not great at, or don’t have enough time to do well myself, the better my work and my life go, and the more gratitude, ease and abundance I experience.
With that last point in mind, I am delighted to welcome a new member of our editorial staff, Executive Editor John Stark. John, who joined our team last month, is a seasoned magazine pro who brings a wealth of experience and skills honed at diverse publications — from People to Body + Soul (now Martha Stewart’s Whole Living). Best of all, he’s also a healthy-living success story.
I’m excited about John’s talented presence on our team, and about the opportunity it gives me and our whole group to do even better work on behalf of our smart and busy readers.
Here’s to all of us doing more of what lights us up — and less of what doesn’t!