When is the day done?

For the employee the day is done when the completion of a particular task signals the end of the day, or when the whistle blows signaling that it’s time to punch out, or when we think we’ve looked like we’ve been busy enough for long enough that we feel we’ve satisfied the boss’s expectation of us, or when the clock strikes five.

What if we’re our own boss? Is it when we think we’ve set enough of an example for the team of what a full day of work looks like? Or when we feel like we have enough control over our affairs that we can let go for now? Or when we’re so exhausted that we can go no further.

Having left my regular job more than two years ago, and considering myself a recovering workaholic, I can say that while I answer only to myself that there are still times when I hear the tape in my head telling me that I haven’t done enough yet. This tape is a hold over from a world in which I was continually judged by upper management based on the progress of my current projects. Not the body of work I had contributed to the company over time, rather for what I had done for them the day before, or even the present day.

This is neither healthy nor balanced. Prior to the industrial revolution this way of thought did not exist. There was no such concept as an 8-hour day or a 40-hour week. We worked when we felt like working and stopped when we felt like stopping. The Navajo Grandmothers will say that the traditional way of living is to get up with the sun and greet the day, stay busy throughout the day, rest when you feel like resting, eat when you’re hungry, stop working when you’re tired.

I read recently that some of our greatest figures of science, government and business were known for taking regular naps. Winston Churchill was said to have accomplished much of his work in bed. He would nap and work right there in the comfort of his own bedroom. Albert Einstein was known for taking frequent catnaps, Thomas Edison and so many others.

I think these leaders understood an important tenant of what we now refer to as “work/life balance,” that when we set aside our concern for what other people might think of our progress, and instead focus on what our hearts desire and passion demands of us, the question of when the day is done becomes very simple: when we feel like it.