When Life is a Treadmill

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I’m on record that I hate running on treadmills. I’m going to amend that to include when work “feels” like a treadmill as well.

It seems like there are just phases of life where every work day is pretty much the same as day before. Where you feel like you’re running a good pace because you’re getting tired, but not really going anywhere. No measurable victories, no significant losses, no new challenges, no change in scenery. Generally, it is like your work has been put on a treadmill.

The reason that I don’t like running on treadmills is that even though you consciously know you’re doing something, sub-consciously it feels like you’re standing still. The scenery never changes so your mind doesn’t measure the work that you’re putting in. It is mindless and boring to me. I like to see new things, experience new places, and face new challenges when I run. I desire the same things in my work – new challenges, different day to day schedules, and new clients and colleagues to engage with in meaningful dialogue.

So, when my work life starts to feel like a treadmill it feels mindless and boring to me. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on one of those work treadmills – several big projects are rolling along without too much of my interaction required; we’ve put some great proposals on the street and it isn’t time to “push” those opportunities yet; there don’t seem to be a ton of new projects on the horizon; AND I work from home, so no one just to grab coffee with and brainstorm about new ideas. It is just plowing along, putting in effort, but sub-consciously it feels like it isn’t going anywhere. BOOORRRRRINNG!

So, what to do? I guess there are a few options:

  1. Take a vacation. I actually did take yesterday off since the kids were out of school and I’m taking next Monday off for the same reason. I hope we’ll be able to share some experiences together to get my mind off of it.
  2. Take on a new challenge. Seems like I don’t ever have to look very far to find a new project or challenge around the corner. I have a new opportunity to teach a college class again this semester and I’m finding out about new and interesting things in my world every day just by opening my eyes it seems. (Trick is to not take on too much)
  3. Feed my mind. I’ve checked out some books I’m interested in and I’m trying to catch up with some friends I haven’t talked to in awhile. Writing and reading are good distractions for me.
  4. Push on old business relationships. This is hard to do when things are busy, so I’ve reached out to some past clients just to see how they’re doing and fill them in on what we’re up to at Downstream.
  5. Consider the obvious. Am I getting the kind of “work exercise” I want and need? Is it time for a “new type of training?” I’m still grappling with this one.

What I don’t want to do is sit around wasting time surfing the internet. I don’t want to become a micro-managing part of my team just because the rest of the team is hard at work on the projects we closed at the end of the year and my “heavy lifting” is on a break right now. I don’t want to get dis-enchanted with what I do if this is just a spell.

So, even though I find treadmill running incredibly boring, I’m just going to accept today that sometimes its cold outside and if you want to work up a sweat, you just have to hope on the treadmill and run. And so it is in work as well.

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I hate treadmills

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I hate treadmills. Other than getting sweaty and maybe a little bit tired, I never feel like I accomplish anything of value on a treadmill. I know some of my running friends, particularly my northern brethren, have to use the treadmill as an important part of their training during the winter months so I can appreciate that you sometimes CAN actually accomplish physical training on a treadmill.

For me, part of the reason I hate running on a treadmill is because of the life analogy it brings to mind. In life, as in running, sometimes we choose to, or simply have to get on a treadmill for awhile. We are seemingly just staying in one place in our life, not experiencing much of what is out there for us, but somehow getting dirty, sweaty, and tired. I find that this happens to me most often when I don’t take time to stop, slow things down, examine what is happening around me, and just be quiet and reflect on where I’m at and how I can experience more of life instead of just staying in one place getting sweaty. I’ve been in that place lately; darting mentally from one project to another, placing blame on clients for not being easy to work with, griping at my team about deadlines I know they are focused on, and generally moving too fast in one place to be very thoughtful about business or life.

Much like running outside after having been on a treadmill, I often find that when I get off of life’s treadmill, I start to appreciate beauty around me more, I discover new things that were really very close to me but I never saw because I was stuck on the treadmill, and I get energized by the other people and other exciting things going on around me.

Sometimes there’s no choice but to log your miles on the treadmill – it’s 35 degrees and rainy in Dallas today where I am attending a conference; and sometimes you find yourself on a treadmill in life. But next chance I get to be outside, running and experiencing the world around me, you can bet I’ll be out there. Today, in my life, however, I don’t have to wait for better weather – I’m getting off of life’s treadmill today and I’m going to experience the people and things around me in a new a refreshing way.