I've just rented a house for five weeks near the beach. It was my wife Deborah's idea. At first, I thought I'd work in my office in New York during the week and come out here Thursday nights for long weekends.
But Deborah is planning to stay here for the full five weeks. I've been working really hard for the past year and the more I thought about a long break, the more it started to sound really appealing.
I realize that just being able to rent a house by the beach is an incredible privilege in itself, and especially so in this terrible economy. I also know that saying I have difficulty relaxing is ridiculous next to the more primal anxiety those who don't have jobs are feeling.
At the same time, I've just published a book called The Way We're Working Isn't Working. The premise is that human beings aren't meant to run like computers, continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time. We're happier and more effective when we move more rhythmically between periods of work and rest.
The irony of racing from city to city on a book tour this summer, preaching that message, hasn't been lost on me.
I do get much more sleep than most people I know. I do take time during the day to work out or play tennis. I've even begun taking back my lunch. But I haven't taken a vacation of more than two consecutive weeks in my adult life. Nor has almost anyone else I know.
When I was much younger, and worked for big companies, two weeks was all the vacation you were permitted. But even as I got older, and had more independence, I never felt I could afford to be away for more than two weeks.
In truth, I also found it hard to really relax on vacation. I worried about work left behind. I had too much time to think. Perhaps above all, I wasn't sure who I was when I wasn't working.
That's the deeper explanation, I think, for why so many people work absurdly long hours, despite the toll it takes on their health, their families and their satisfaction.
Many of us -- dare I say, men especially? -- don't know exactly what to do with ourselves when we're not working. We prefer to be crazy busy. It makes us feel important, even when the work we're doing isn't all that important.
If I'm honest, I'm not prepared to go cold turkey and stop working altogether for the next five weeks, even though I'm sure the company I run would do just fine in my absence. Even so, if I'm going to truly dial back, I need to do it progressively.
My aim is to savor my non-working time here.
Most of us are moving too fast and juggling too many balls to savor much of anything for very long. Instead, we live off the rush -- speed, adrenalin and intensity -- forever chasing the next high.
Savoring takes time and it requires absorbed focus.
I know savoring will work best if I don't make it another obligation, a goal to be achieved. I need to just set the conditions, and allow it to happen, at its own pace.
My plans for this week is to start work around 9, take a leisurely lunch, work no later than 4 p.m. and then go play tennis.
I play tennis at home, but I usually arrive just in time to get on the court, and leave immediately when I'm finished. The next several weeks, I want to play until I'm tired, and then sit around kibitzing with other players afterward.
In the weeks ahead, I want to sit on the beach and read novels -- even one or two great long novels (I'm starting with Crime and Punishment, my all time favorite) -- which is something I rarely feel relaxed enough to do when I'm at home.
I want to go out to lunch at cafes with my wife, sit outdoors and hang out after we've finished eating, talking and people-watching.
By next week, I want to be working just a few hours each day, maybe in the early mornings, so I have the whole day ahead, or maybe late in the day -- we'll see.
I want to literally smell the roses and the other flowers that are growing right outside our door, and I want to listen for the birdcalls right outside my window.
I want to really enjoy my children, when they come to visit. I want to grill, and eat fresh corn and tomatoes, and drink beers and Margaritas, and listen to music playing over the speakers out on our deck.
I want to give myself a chance to reflect and refuel, relax and reset my rhythms, and experience who I am without work -- while also recognizing I am incredibly fortunate to have work.
Do you struggle, too, to slow down? What activities can you add to your life, wherever you are, whatever your situation, that you'll truly take the time to savor?