One thing I have noticed to date on the Charles Six dot Zero voyage of discovery is that people keep asking if I am keeping busy. Now let me hasten to say this doesn’t annoy me – au contraire, it is nice that folks take an interest. However, I always feel a little wrong-footed in my response. I am happily occupied, yes, but should I be busier, perhaps there is more I could try to cram in?
One slightly un-busy thing I have been enjoying in reinventing my days has been the gentle art of slow cooking. Assembling a meal over the course of several days has a satisfying rhythm, doing a little of what is necessary for each stage, and letting time take care of the rest.
Truth be told I have never particularly worshipped at the busyness shrine, and I certainly don’t intend to start now in my exploration of the ‘third age’ of retirement.
The example I have photo-documented for this blog was a beef and vegetable stew, which started with preparation of vegetable stock, simmering vegetable scraps collected over the previous week in a large pan for several hours and then soaking soup-mix of grains and pulses in the resultant liquid overnight…
Often times during my working career I encountered what I felt was a ‘cult of busyness’, whereby the only acceptable work position was to be frantically busy – or appear to be so. Sometimes it seemed to me that people shelter from uncertainty and ambiguity in their busyness and need a crammed schedule and impossible work program to validate them and their contribution.
The gravy beef was braised in a heavy-bottomed chasseur for several hours with vinegar and herbs before it was also refrigerated overnight, to then be combined with the vegetable stock and soup-mix. Sliced and diced winter root vegetables acquired on a quick e-bike trip to the greengrocer provided the final ingredients to complete the process, and generated vegetable scraps for further iterations of vegetable stock making …
I have usually tried to subscribe to the cult of ‘getting stuff done’; to tolerate uncertainty, discern what is material and relevant in the noise, select what is important and then commit to delivering this in an achievable time-frame. At the same time, it is important to retain time and space for quiet reflection, essential relaxation and personal recreation. Personal experience and most work psychology literature indicate that these are the true engines of sustained personal productivity.
The ‘busy work’ stance can be used to justify all manner of slightly bizarre (at least to me) behaviours: over-scheduling, unnecessary rework and revision, inability to prioritise, a diminished sense of proportion. Rarely did such an approach appear to correlate particularly highly with effectiveness and genuine productivity. Deadlines can tend to get pushed (because there is so much ‘on’), tunnel vision is a constant hazard (because there is so much to do no one has any time to think or to plan), over-promising is rife and too often work is second-rate because people are over-committed and too tired to do their best on work that actually matters.
The beef and vegetable stew was finally served with a little pasta stirred in and crusty bread on the side, for the full hearty winter eating experience.
I certainly felt validated (in an un-busy kind of way) as I served my partner Roberta the slow-cooked product of several days’ moderate work. It had required periodic attention, but surprisingly little effort – as the old cliché says, it’s better to work smart than hard – the trick seems to be actually doing it!