It was getting hard in the business. I was going through a stretch of a few months at the back end of 2020 where it just felt like hell.
Every day I was waking up exhausted. And for the first time in my near 4 years since starting my company, I didn’t want to get out of bed.
I have a journal habit. Each morning it was starting to get repetitively draining writing in it. I was documenting the same emotions, with no light at the end of the tunnel. I even once wrote, on 26th November: “I just feel battered, and I’m fed up of writing that”.
Anyway, I grinded through the following weeks to reach mid December, when I thought the answer to everything lied in rest.
So I decided to sleep to my heart’s content, frequently clocking 12 hours a night. It felt great. When the holiday period arrived, my plan was to schedule and do nothing. No work; just sleep and relax. Supposedly the ideal life.
Ironically, after a few days I started to feel more tired. I was sleeping, relaxing, doing nothing (even taking time off training), yet getting progressively more tired.
Then Christmas Day came. All plans cancelled. And I was twiddling my thumbs. We had the usual Christmas meal scheduled for afternoon, but I had no idea what else to do. I’d slept in, gone for a walk, even watched a bit of TV. Living the dream, exhausted.
So I decided to write for a few hours. The next day, the same. And the next. I was spending 3-4 hours a day during my ‘time off’, writing about the topic I’m most curious about: why don’t people stay in shape.
I was energised.
All the haze, tiredness and reluctance to get out of bed, suddenly disappeared.
What did I learn?
We have two types of fatigue. We have genuine fatigue, where rest is the only option. Your mind is fried, and your body is showing overtraining type symptoms - elevated heart rate, extra muscle pain, and similar. In this case, trying to push through is futile, and will make things worse.
Probably where I was at before Christmas. Which is why the initial rest worked so well.
The second type is more the ‘being in a rut’ fatigue. It’s when we’re doing all the things we shouldn’t be for too long, living out of flow, or just in a cycle of procrastination (like getting out of bed late). That’s the type of fatigue that is cured by one thing only: action in flow.
Which is why writing for a few hours a day, after a short total rest, was the best way for recovery.
Sort of like deloading in the gym. You take 3-5 days off totally, then start off with lighter loads to get you back in the groove.
The lighter load period is our way of overcoming the inertia that typically accompanies periods of nothing. A close friend of mine said yesterday that this was the first January he’s been able to hit the ground running from Jan 1st with no let up. Why? Because he took some genuine time off for a few days, then just worked lightly in his flow through Christmas, instead of the usual 2-3 weeks off of doing nothing.
All different strategies of managing fatigue and rest. Deciphering between the two is tricky - as I learned, yet each experiment is a way to build up my individual awareness to know when I need which. One thing for sure is that when I next take total time off, I must schedule in time to warm the tyres, else I may find myself in the parking spot for a few more weeks wondering why I'm still too tired to get going.
Action is always the best recipe for coming out of this type of rut.