When I was a college athlete, there was an “in-season” and an “off-season.” In-season we played games, went to tournaments and vied for championships. We were laser-focused on winning. It was the most physically and emotionally exhausting part of my year. But all high-performing athletes know that it’s impossible to perform at your peak all year long. So when the season ended, we took a few weeks off to rest and recover before we began off-season training. During the off-season we focused on getting stronger and faster, but at a slower pace, and building our mental toughness for the next season. We also reflected on what was working and how to improve the next time we competed. The better our off-season, the better our in-season.
In life, it can feel like we are in-season all year long. Combined with our “always on” culture, the lack of time to rest, learn, grow and strengthen our minds and bodies leads to burnout and can even fuel the gender gap. So through the years, I’ve tried to incorporate the spirit of the off-season when things feel like they are starting to overwhelm me or get out of control. I make time to learn, grow and expand my muscles (physical, mental, emotional) in new ways. I reflect and focus on what would help me excel. The experience never fails to rejuvenate and inspire me.
We’ve been working on The Juggle for three years. It took a year to plan, and for two years after that we rarely missed a week of publishing. But right now something has to give for us, so we’re taking a break from the Juggle. It’s not forever, but we also aren’t committing to a set date that we’ll be back. This isn’t an easy choice, but it feels like a healthy one.
Personally, I’m going to use this off-season to think through the impact I want to have in the world, in my community and in my family. The pandemic and killing of George Floyd has re-ignited my desire to give a voice to the unheard and have a positive social impact with my work. I want to think about ways The Juggle can help tackle some of the injustices and help transform our world into a space that celebrates diverse perspectives and ways of life. I also want to get some of my evenings back to do nothing, read and get inspired by nature.
I asked the rest of The Juggle co-founders how they are going to use their off-season.
I’m working hard to get away from needing to feel busy and productive all the time. I’ve realized that a lot of my self-worth is tied up in what I accomplish, which doesn’t feel healthy or sustainable, especially now. This will be slow work, but I need to change my relationship with “productivity” and prioritize rest and flexibility for my own well being.
I also hope to have more time to think about my career longer-term. One of my new responsibilities at work is strategy and analytics for a new website. It’s been fun and challenging and has shown me how much more I want to learn about business strategy, software engineering and data science. I hope to invest more time in those interests.
I’m tired, and I’m mostly hoping to just take care of myself. I want to minimize screen time outside of work and sleep more; hitting the pause button on The Juggle means I have no excuse to deprive myself of sleep or stare at my computer more than I’d like. I’ve been trying to learn to meditate and develop a meditation practice, so that’s something I’d like to commit to doing every day, along with exercising more consistently because I won’t be too tired in the morning from staying up so late trying to write but then getting distracted by Instagram.
I actually stepped back from The Juggle several months ago. My decision was met with warm support and affirmation from my amazing cofounders. I was honest with them: working on the blog wasn’t energizing me anymore. Choosing to spend even minimal time on The Juggle was increasingly up against things like getting more sleep or doubling down on strengthening important relationships. Work and parenting were taking up a growing share of my time, which left even less for The Juggle. As a result, when I did work on the blog I wasn’t happy with what I produced, which stoked the guilt and disappointment I felt about my contributions to what Sarah, Jen, Alyssa and I were striving to build for y’all. So, I made the agonizing decision to step back for an indefinite period of time. I say agonizing because it’s really hard for me to stop doing things. I’m the kind of person who’s at least partially motivated by the desire to avoid regretting things, hence my paralysis when faced with 20+ flavors in an ice cream shop (But what if I regret NOT getting the peanut butter swirl???). Anyway, now that I’m a few months on the other side, I know I made the right choice. I miss working with my cofounders A LOT, but they’ve let me lurk on Slack and we send each other regular video updates, which are the best. I’m still working on creating better boundaries between work and other parts of my life (which has gotten more interesting during these pandemic times), but I’m glad I’ve narrowed my priorities so that I can focus and invest more in each of them. Lots of love to my cofounders for taking a much-needed break — I’m proud of y’all.
This off-season isn’t forever, but we need it more than ever right now. Thank you for being such a dedicated Juggle community, and we can’t wait to share all we learned this off-season when we are back.
Are you thinking about taking an off-season but not sure where to start? A few ideas to get you started: you can try opting out of busyness, practicing a bit of positivity, dancing at home, sleeping more, or finding new rituals. There’s also nothing wrong with phoning it in for a bit. Who knows? It might inspire you.