Unplug and disconnect with ‘How to Not Always Be Working’ (Biz & Books review)

The weekend whizzed by quickly. What little part of weekend you had, that is, because it seems like you’re always working. Your phone’s in your hands. Paperwork’s nearby. You get emails at all hours and there’s no time left for you, so read “How to Not Always Be Working,” by Marlee Grace and see how to disconnect.

Almost four years ago, Marlee Grace backed herself into a corner. She was in a faltering marriage, living in Michigan, and running a business when she decided to take up knitting to help her deal with stress. The problem was that part of her business included yarn and when she fell in love with knitting, she realized that she couldn’t run from the stress: her hobby had become work.

Fast forward a few years. Divorced, Grace moved to Northern California and opened a new business that relies on her artistry. Still, her days of Too Much nagged at her, and so she wrote this book for people (like her) who can’t leave work at work.

The first recommendation is to get a watch, an alarm clock, and a disposable camera. The aim is to ease your reliance on your cell phone.

Next, figure out what’s work and what’s not. Which parts do you enjoy so much that you breeze through them, and which parts make you want to scream? Be ultra-aware of the former; when you’re doing those tasks, it’s hard to remember that you’re working, which makes it difficult to disengage. With the latter, give yourself plenty of appropriate-length breaks or rewards while you’re doing them.

Make your workspace feel like not-work, especially if you work from home. Learn to literally compartmentalize tasks; Grace suggests a box for each project, so you can put notes or ideas inside. Get rid of all apps on your phone that are not necessary (and that’s probably most of them). Unplug, unplug, unplug by following an intriguing exercise that Grace explains here. And finally, remember that lots of people have struggled with this, and they’ve managed to figure things out…

Fair warning: Your first inclination may be to dismiss “How To Not Always Be Working” as fluffy. It is a small gifty-type book and it is rather on the new-agey side. But it’s also got ideas that may work you need to get away from work.

Author Marlee Grace is big on list-making so — more warning! — be prepared, although she lends creativity and fun to such tasks in the most guileless way, which underscores the premise of the entire book. Through these and other exercises, readers are led to really understand what makes work feel like an evil necessity, what makes it a joy, and how to strike a balance. Reading it is somewhat like re-learning to play but remembering that you’re a grown-up, too.

So put away your phone (really!), take out a pen, and get ready for some non-work non-thinking. With “How to Not Always Be Working,” it won’t take long for you to be a relaxation whiz.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind “The Bookworm Sez,” a self-syndicated book review column published in more than 260 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. She can be reached for feedback, ideas and links to reviews of books on a broad range topics at www.bookwormsez.com.


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