Fallow Time

Fallow Time

fallow field pic

In large part, it’s the project or product manager’s mind and heartin which products and services are grown to maturity. Nowhere else does every single element needed to produce the end result come together. It’s as if our mind/heart, or brains/guts if you like, is a field in which the seed of an idea can be planted and then nourished by engineers, marketers, customer care specialists and all our other colleagues.
It’s stressful, being a field. You have to manage all that nourishment coming in so it gets properly into your project, while at the same time your inner resources are getting pulled out by the very thing you’re trying to create. And like a field, if you don’t have a rest period from time to time, you become so drained that no amount of nutrients put in will get anything out. In agriculture, resting a field is called letting it lie fallow. In project and product management, or any discipline, really, I call it the same thing: fallow time.
Of course, we wouldn’t be in this profession if we didn’t like taking some responsibility, making things happen and delivering the goods, but remember: even God took a day off. Fallow time is your chance to let the heart/mind heal and recharge so it can grow its next crop of results even better than before.
So, a few pithy propositions:

  • Vacation: Vacation is part of your compensation—not taking it is like throwing money away! Not to mention your sanity. Mitigate the risks of your being gone and then go.*
  • Daily breaks: Even if it’s only five minutes (longer is better), go off by yourself (without your smartphone, PDA, etc.) and chill. DO NOTHING. Think as little as possible. Find a meditation method that suits you and practice it.
  • Reading: Lose yourself in a good book that has nothing to do with work. Not the newspaper, a book.
  • Fitness: You don’t have to be a jock. Just go outside and amble for twenty or thirty minutes. If the weather is inclement, stroll around the aisles of your cube farm. Of course, if you’re so inclined, work out like crazy.
  • Sleep: Get enough. Most people need 7-8 hours, some more, some less. You can always tape Kimmel and watch it later.
  • Say no: Too often we dig our own holes using the shovel of “yes.” Refuse some requests by just pleading overload, or by showing how taking on this one additional thing will hose your other valuable activities.

Lie fallow, my friends, and freshen the soil of your soul!

*In some cases it may actually be more relaxing to stay in touch with work a little, say by spending an hour in the morning checking email. That way you aren’t worrying about it. Knock this out first thing in the morning so it’s not hanging over your head. Also, find at least one or two days where you can unplug completely.

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