The Season of Work Challenge

The Get Back to (Intentional) Work Challenge

When was the last time you listened to yourself and paid attention to the words that were coming out of your mouth? Have you ever noticed a pattern? Is there one thing you talk about (or complain about) most days of the week? Maybe it’s a concern about money, or trouble in a relationship, or an annoyance at work. I can look back and think of examples for all of these things, at various points in my life.

A few days ago, I finally noticed I was saying the same few words over and over: tired, exhausted, blur. I was managing the tired/exhausted feelings for a few weeks. It didn’t feel good, but I knew it was temporary. However, “blur” was a new one—and that is the opposite of why I live a slower lifestyle. I prefer to act with intention, so I can create (and actually remember) the life I want. This lifestyle is also a preventative measure for me, because I know what happens when I am tired/exhausted/feel the blur for too long (increased anxiety + panic attacks).

My anxiety hasn’t crept in too much lately, but I do feel like I’ve been operating in a way that is not sustainable for me personally, so I know it’s time to change what I’m doing. And that’s something I have learned many times now, after paying attention to what I’m saying and how I’m feeling: if it’s within your control, you should absolutely make a change and move yourself in the direction you want to be going.

Personally, I know I want to get back to work—slow, intentional work—the work I love doing, and the work I want to remember doing. After listening to this episode of Hurry Slowly, I wrote down my list of work priorities, then matched it up to my existing calendar and realized I wasn’t doing any of them. I wasn’t writing or creating anything. I also had no time to do either. Instead, my calendar was full of things that were draining my energy, and taking up more time than I could afford to spare (think: 3 hours out of the house for a 4-minute interview).

I will never regret taking a step back from work and doing all of those interviews. If anything, I’m starting to see that it was short-term work for long-term success of the book. So, I won’t regret it, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunities. But I genuinely want to do some real work. I want to write and sketch and create! Not so surprisingly, I’ve decided to setup a challenge (with some intentions/rules) to make this happen.

I’m calling it the Season of Work Challenge!

It starts today and ends on April 17th. For the next 30 days, I’m going to:

  • write every day (this is my top priority)
  • work Monday-Friday and attempt to take weekends off
  • track how many hours I work (and how many per project)
  • try to work 40 hours/week or less, including:
    • 20 hours of writing/creating (4 hours/day)
    • no more than 5 hours of interviews
  • and complete at least one new project!

I wish I could say that I thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Every part of this challenge feels like . . . well, like it’s going to be a challenge. I have journaled a little this year, and wrote 750 words/day for about two weeks. But I don’t have a schedule, and I don’t know how many hours I’ve been working. I also haven’t created—much less completed—a new project in months. So yes, this is going to be a huge shift.

Even though it won’t be easy, I haven’t felt this excited about work in a long time. I’m excited to write! I’m excited to have a schedule and structure! I’m excited to attempt to take weekends off! My intention for the weekends is to have 1 adventure day + 1 full day off. This feels sooo exciting! (Are you excited yet or sick of the word? Sorry! Too excited to care!) Spring is here, and I am ready for a change.

Aside from committing to writing one blog post each week, I don’t know what the new project I start/complete will be yet. All I know is that I’m done with the words tired, exhausted and blur—and I’m ready to take back control of my calendar and my work life. I want to finish this challenge and find myself saying three new words over and over: creative, energized and accomplished.

Is anyone else itching for a season of work?

PS – I’m going to stay accountable to this challenge by sharing updates via Instagram Stories! Every day, I will show you a behind the scenes look at whatever I’m working on. I will also tally up the number of hours I have worked each day, share the final number on Fridays, and let you know how my weekends off are going. ;)

PPS – I’ll be hanging out at the Squamish Public Library + Chapters in Victoria this week! Come say hi :)

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  • Yes! That is exactly what I am trying to do for the past two weeks :D My first panic attack in years left me drained and not only mentally, but also physically exhausted. Clearly, I did not take good care of myself – again… My 38,070th attempt to do it all failed once again. I don’t know why it takes me so long to accept that I can’t and don’t have to do it all… Over the last two weeks, I set up a new schedule with a lot more downtime. So, I am totally up for a season of work with more intention. Great idea! Count me in :)
    Sophie
    P.S. Thanks for Hurry Slowly, love every episode!

    • It’s such a fantastic podcast! I have genuinely enjoyed something about every episode. Glad to have you with me, Sophie!

  • What prompted my journey toward less was a divorce in 2013, at 55. My daughter had started college out-of-state and I was living in a place that was part of my ex’s dream, not mine. I knew that my unhappiness was as connected to a physical place as much as it was being in an unsuccessful marriage, My anxiety was mostly about the unknown and MONEY: “Would I get a job at my age”? Well, three years later, I am in a new place, have a well-paying job, and LIVE SIGNIFICANTLY below my means. My unhappy place included 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, now I live in a 350 square foot studio. I got rid of everything before I moved from my unhappy place and have taken my time furnishing/decorating my 350 squares. My 2018 resolution was to live with even less and save even more. We all have a internal whisper (sometimes a scream) that informs us of what we need — we need to recognize it and take it to heart. We don’t need another sweater, a newer car, a different set of silverware…we do need contentment, we do need to set goals, we do need to reach them. I love reading about others’ quest for less. Thank you Cait for sharing your story!

    • I needed to read this: sadly expecting a divorce to end my 20+ years marriage. And trying to convince myself it could be an happy new start… As a freelancer / small entrepreneur during all my professional life, anxiety is growing. Tamara, your testimony is encouraging. And thank you Kate for sharing a lot of doubts and wisdom…
      (A french reader, living in Paris, France – commenting here for the first time with a correctly written comment, I hope!)

      • I’m french also (from Paris) and reading this site with a great pleasure, so glad to see there are some other french here. Thank you Cate for your work and your wonderful articles, it helps me a lot to shift my life in more meaning direction. You can be proud- your personal experience is helping now so many people from different places and backgrounds. Love your work

  • Thank you for this. I heard yesterday about the danger of giving up and being indifferent. My workplace has been slightly toxic for a while and it is hard to get excited about much. But I need to not give in and to find some way to align activities with my values.

    • Oh that’s interesting. I hadn’t even thought about the giving up/being indifferent aspect of this. This is one of the reasons I love writing: we all take different things from it, and can have even more conversations than we realized when we first wrote something! Thank you, Susan.

    • I know what you mean. I’ve caught myself not caring about being late for meetings and blowing off work because that’s what my boss does and I’ve tried to catch myself and think “no, that’s not my attitude, that’s not me”. It’s hard though.
      I have to get through a house move and minor surgery, then I can sit down and plan some of my life so it isn’t just passing me by in a haze of “whatever”.

  • What an interesting challenge! I can’t wait to see how it turns out for you. For myself, I’ve found a writing routine helpful to keep myself on track. It’s not anything set, but I’ve just started to write in big chunks, rather than smaller pieces that by the time I get back to them don’t link up nicely and I end up having to rewrite it anyway. I’ve also noticed lately that I’ve been writing things I know people will want to read, but that I don’t love to write. This is something I’d like to change. I’m hoping my trip away will give me some brain space to reset and get back to what I love writing about – simplifying my life in all its messy detail.

    • “I’ve also noticed lately that I’ve been writing things I know people will want to read, but that I don’t love to write.” – this is often what results in me taking chunks of time off the blog. I know I’m trying too hard and it doesn’t feel natural. Maybe do some stream of consciousness writing!? Literally just dump things into a Google Doc or scribble all over some paper and see what comes out. :)

  • This is a great idea! I’m going to try tracking my work hours as well. In contrast to my friends at companies where they bill their hours, and thus have careful timekeeping, I have no idea how many hours I work, especially since I sometimes work from home or in the evenings/weekends. I might also split my tracking my “creative hours” and “mundane hours” (like meetings) to see the ratio. I think the act of tracking will also force me to use my time more efficiently :)

    • Hey that’s a good idea! Creative vs. mundane. I might look at it as creative vs. administrative. I am definitely keeping track of things like email and meetings (two things I would LOVE to do less of). Now I’m imagining all the drawings/graphics I can create to show the results . . . haha! Good luck, Jess!

  • Love this! I find myself so easily distracted lately because I’m anxious and doubting my own abilities. Bit of a self-defeating habit. I remember you describing 750words at your reading in Toronto. So I gave it a try this morning and it helped me break through a lot of anxiety I get when I approach my writing. I’m hoping to do it every day from now on…although I doubt I’ll subscribe. Maybe just do the practice in a word document on my laptop. Looking forward to seeing your daily updates on this challenge.

    • Yea, I don’t know if it’s a service I’ll pay for either, but it definitely helped restart my writing habit!

  • Interesting challenge!! I hope we get to read some of your writing! ;-) I work a regular job, but have been fortunate to have had some interesting opportunities lately that have challenged me and I’ve found a few gaps in my resume that I would like to work on. I need to write more too – I need to write for work, but should really take some time to stretch the limits a bit. I also need to work on my French (govt worker! lol) as well as learning a bit more about our legal system. I think I will challenge myself to read in French every work day – something in the news that is relevant to work (besides work documents already in French).

    • Oh yes, that’s my top priority! Write/share at least one blog post/week! So you will absolutely see some of it. :) And that is such a great goal, Laura! Can you create a system to keep track of this? Even just drawing a checkmark on a calendar for every day you do it?

      • Yes, I was thinking about tracking the French part, especially… It ‘s so easy to get distracted at work and forget about the extra stuff. Maybe I’ll track it in my bullet journal or something…? TBD. :-)

  • Dear Cait: Getting this concept of balanced work and play, along with the best bang-for-your-buck work effort, at your age will save you decades of wasting your life energy. Experiencing this in my sixties means that the years I have left will be more graceful, fun and meaningful. Keep writing! Michael

    • Thank you, Michael! I am a big believer that we have seasons in life: seasons of work, seasons of rest, and so on. So I don’t know that I will ever feel “balanced” at any given moment. Maybe sometimes! But that’s not really my goal. The goal is to be ready/able to commit to each of these seasons. Right now, it’s time to work, write and be more creative. :)

  • This sounds awesome! I’m in my final month of uni, and the projects are really starting to pile up on me. I might start this challenge right alongside you. Except, instead of work, I’ll track ours on school projects. Also, have you heard of the app Forest? It’ll block apps on your phone while simultaneously growing a tree, but if you want to check your phone while you’re supposed to be working on something else, you have to kill your tree. It’s great for avoiding temptation and for clearing mental space for the tasks ahead. I really like it!

    • Yes, I’ve tried it before! I found I didn’t really end up using it much, because I can go an hour or two without looking at my phone already. But it’s a great way to break the habit of checking it!

  • I’ve finally settled into a rhythm of sorts six months into my semi-retirement. Although with my blog and another side hustle I kinda feel like I’ve been working too much. I just got back from a weekend of ice climbing in New York and the connection to nature revitalized me and reminded me that I haven’t been getting enough. I need a season of nature.

  • I have a feeling that you will do well with your goal/challenge because whatever you set your mind to, you seem to accomplish! :) That is a very admirable trait to have. Glad to hear you are getting back to writing. Looking forward to reading your upcoming posts!

  • I’m so inspired by your goal to take weekends off. My weekends are usually filled with grading papers, planning new lessons, and generally working too much (I’m a teacher). After 15 years of working 7 days a week (even on vacation weeks), I need to acknowledge that I’m consistently failing to meet my own needs. I would love to take back my weekends – it sounds impossible, but what if it isn’t? :) Thank you for sharing!

  • I love this challenge! Why is the work we care about most the work that’s hardest to get to? I feel that too.

    I’d love to know, how do you plan on tracking your work and project hours?

  • Thank you! I am trying to start a writing practice and a blog and can use all the inspiration I can get. Creativity and writing are a challenge for me, but I’m trying to grow in a new direction. As I work through fear of failure and limiting beliefs I look forward to following your challenge and working on my own!
    Melissa
    P.S. Thank you for the podcast link – I’m enjoying what I’ve heard so far!

  • I needed this post. I’ve been trying to write more lately, because if that’s what I want to do with my life I should just get going and do it. Hearing that someone else is committing to their writing/creativity is so inspiring! I love a good challenge. I don’t want to just work, eat, and sleep. I want to stimulate my brain and get it moving. Thanks Cait!

  • Just wanted to say I’m on page 159 of your book that I borrowed from the library. I am also the sober girl at parties and gatherings and wish you lived in Ontario cause I feel like we’d be great friends! One time I went to a wine and movie night at a friends house and I brought a travel mug of tea. Anyways I LOVE your book and blog. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us!

  • I am in a season of a blur and sadness, just last week I had to say good bye to my cat Virginia. She got diagnosed with cancer in Nov, had surgery and was on chemo. all was going well until I found a lump on her side and again, surgery. She did well for a week and than was in a steady decline. Had to give her fluids and hand feed her. She did not improve so went to the vet and made the decision to let her go. Cancer had returned and she was retaining water and in pain. Have cried more than I thought was humanly possible, and yes, life is a blur. The heartache runs so deep. I am exhausted. I still have Virginia’s sister Faith so my focus is her now.
    Anyway, all of this was to say that my season is exhaustion and a blur but trying to breathe and take things one step at a time. It is hard and hurts so much. I need to slow myself down and heal or at least try and heal because really, does a heart ever really heal from this? I knew you would understand and hope to find a season of joy soon. All of this, really since november has given me a new perspective and life priority. Some things do not seem as important as before and what i want to do with my next journey has changed. I turned 60 in December so life is strange these days.
    Thank you for letting me write to you and just know, you inspire and a season of work and change is a good thing.
    Peace, Nancy

  • Hi Cait. Always love seeing your little personal challenges! They are a great source of inspiration. Thanks for sharing them!

  • Hey Cait,

    I can totally relate to those words tired, exhausted and blur. I keep trying to push through this season of life (while still trying to find joy in it), because I know it won’t last forever. In the next 7 weeks I will be finishing up a 35 hour per week unpaid internship, balancing another part time paid job and my school work, graduating, getting married, and moving away. It’s a lot and I constantly feel exhausted and drained. I have been trying to slow down because I do not want to remember this time as being as dreadful as it is currently feeling. I also know I’m making steps to get out of this season. Your blog was encouraging, as usual. Glad you’re back to writing weekly :)

    -Rachel

  • I am itching for a season of work that I WANT to do versus my regular job. I write and speak as my passion but am a trademark paralegal for my professional/money making career. My speaking opportunities have slowed down and I am just bursting to do more. So I understand your frustration from that point and I love the idea of creating a simple 30-day challenge of ways maybe I can send out information to make myself known as a speaker. I have a marketing agent but things aren’t moving as fast as I would like. Maybe this is teaching me patience……………

  • Noticing what you are consistently complaining about is really vital. My next goal is to take fewer clients. Once I finish one today and work on the current backlog, my business will have enough money to sustain itself for several months. I want my nights and weekends back for a little bit. I also want to focus on a different sideproject for 3 months.

  • I’m committed to writing every day and have been since January 27. Just coming up on two months. I’m not as committed to living with less. I am committed to doing less of some things so I have more time to write. It’s a constant balance and one I think women, in general, have more trouble with than men especially when they are parents or trying to maintain a relationship. The trick is in the balance. We’re all always teetering, restraightening, and re-teetering.

  • I feel ya. I have so many ideas and things I want to write; however, trying to balance my writing time with a 2 months old baby can be challenging. Looking forward to see how your challenge goes.

  • Hi Cait!
    I have just finished reading your book and really liked it! I’m just starting to think about all of these things. I have a one year old baby who is amazing but the crèche costs a lot-but I enjoy my job and wanted to keep working so it’s just finding ways of navigating it all. I’m trying to stop buying stuff online when I’m awake late at night! And I also buy lunch out a lot!! I’m finding it good to think about these things. Thanks, leanne

    • PS I am Irish living in UK (Nottingham) so your book is reaching many nationalities :) Nottingham could be another good place in UK if you’re thinking of other places for book tour.