I live my life in twelve-week cycles.
I train and work hard for twelve weeks, and then I take one week off. During that time, I do not write, exercise, and am far less strict about my diet. I turn off my alarm clock and wake up naturally and I go to bed as I wish, rather than adhering to a schedule. It’s pretty fun. And the benefit of it – aside from the obvious – is that when it’s time for me to return to my regiment schedule, I am hungry to do so because living so carefree doesn’t suit me.
As both a creative professional and a pretty serious athlete (or at least I like to think so), I think there’s a benefit to completely throwing it all away for more than a few days at a time. Weekends are great but you can only do so much decompression and recovery (both mental and physical) in two days. Having a full week off where one doesn’t work, it allows you to fully recharge.
The trick, I think, is to staying on this ‘I ain’t doing nothing’ lifestyle until you start to get bored. For me, that takes about four days. Around about Wednesday night or Thursday, I’m starting to get antsy. I get restless. My mind begins to bubble over with story ideas and scenes and clever concepts waiting to be put to the page. And I start getting hyper-active, ready to get out and do something. By Saturday, I’m anxiously awaiting the coming week, the coming start of the new cycle.
Having this week off has other benefits as well. It helps you define success with greater clarity. Living in these twelve-week cycles makes it easy to set medium-term goals. “In this twelve-weeks”, I might say, “I’m going to write a full book, six short stories, four essays, publish two articles, and prepare two convention presentations/panels”. And by having a clearly defined start date and end date, I know how to further breakup my tasks for easier accomplishment. But I also have a period when I call it. I have a date where, after this, I stop. I no longer work on this book, I no longer push to get this article published. If it didn’t happen in this twelve weeks (barring a few extenuating circumstances), I drop it and move on.
And that clean slate every three months is intensely valuable. During that week off, I am able to let go of all the baggage and issues and static that’s built up. I’m able to clear my head and let go of everything that was unnecessary. So that way, on Day One of the new cycle, I am focused and eager, with clearly defined goals and a timetable for achieving them.
And that’s where I am. Day Two of my week off. It is restful. It is relaxing. And I had candy bars for breakfast.