I am an expert chiller. I know how to sit on my ass for hours, do nothing of substance, and love every second of it. It’s an underrated quality in an individual and one I happen to be proud of. On an average weekday in Bourges, France this past year where I taught, you could find me curling up on my twin bed scrolling through Netflix options (and occasionally actually selecting something to watch), reading entire books in one sitting, watching handfuls of movie trailers on YouTube, walking aimlessly with my roommate Julia around our little town and buying macarons just because, or staring out the window with my mug of tea.
I always fulfilled my teaching duties and spent significant amounts of time making PowerPoint slideshows, printing worksheets, and responding to emails, but when I wasn’t in the classroom or socializing or traveling on weekends, I was straight relaxing. There was always something else I could have been doing instead: I could have studied more French vocabulary, I could have written daily like I promised myself, I could have searched for jobs. But I chose not to.
That’s not to say I didn’t initially make the effort to achieve these goals—because I did. But somewhere between typing “writing/editing jobs” on every career help website and conjugating irregular verbs in the conditional tense, I became tired, indifferent, frustrated, or bored. The tiniest of tasks—like sweeping my room, sending an email, or walking outside my door and fifteen steps across the street to the post office—became monumental and dreaded feats. My girlfriends and I later dubbed this complete lack of motivation and overwhelming desire to do nothing “The Bourges Effect,” although the truth is that this paralyzing laziness isn’t limited to central France.
Despite my anxiety about finding employment and my guilt about long afternoons at the park, at the end of each chilled out day I spent I arrived at the same conclusion: it is completely acceptable and healthy to not be constantly productive. Forcing myself to feel bad for not accomplishing something every moment only hindered my ability to maximize my time in France and to stay present. Eventually I learned to either get shit done or to shut the mental chidings off when I didn’t and enjoy myself.
I am efficient and diligent when I need to be, but I can also recognize now when I need a break or when the quality of my work will be compromised because of my mental state. I make a conscious effort daily to tune in to my feelings, then to embrace those feelings and figure out how to work with—not against—them. In Bourges, when I knew I wasn’t particularly motivated or in the mood to research apartments or book trains somewhere, I indulged my laziness—up to a point. I let myself pause, breathe, and spend three hours in my living room practicing new dance moves with Julia with zero guilt or worry. And once I took this personal time, I felt recharged, prepared, and even eager to tackle the next item on my to-do list.
Hustle and stay focused, but allow yourself the occasional self-indulgence. Take a walk, peruse a magazine, crack away at your DVR list. Procrastination is inevitable—we might as well enjoy it when we can.