Back in my college days at Steubenville, there was a vocations fair that came through with dozens of religious orders setting up booths and passing out literature to students who might be considering the religious life. My roommate came back to the room with a flyer which said, "Are you called to the priesthood or the consecrated life?"
"I thought this was really interesting," he said. "What do you think they mean by 'the concentrated life'?"
"The consecrated life," I said. "Being a monk or a friar."
He looked at the flyer again. "Oh, I get it. Consecrated. I misread it. I thought they meant 'concentrated life'. Like maybe because you don't have a family so you really devote yourself to whatever it is that you're working on. Concentrated."
The phrase has stuck with me over the years, and I found myself thinking about it last week when I was sent off with a bunch of other "directors and above" at my company for training. One of the things that invariably strikes me when I spend time with people who are a step or two higher up the corporate ladder than I is how much time they spend on their jobs. It's not just that these folks mostly arrive at the office by 7:00 AM and work till 7:00 PM (though those extra two hours I don't give the office are precious to me) but that work and work's problems seem never to be far from their minds.
On my mental back burner I tend to have blog posts or fiction projects or things to do around the house or some book I'm reading. I don't typically have work there. As people who've met me in person know, it's not hard to get me off on some rambling disquisition about pricing and marketing and various companies, and sometimes a gnawing problem will stay with me, but in general when I leave the office building and put on my audiobook in the car, I leave thoughts of work behind. Indeed, given the chance, I'll have some writing or reading topic on the mental back burner simmering even while I'm at work.
Now I'm back from training, the work load is escalating, and I'm trying to fill a hire an additional person onto the team. I'm still trying not to routinely work more than ten hours a day, and to keep my mental back burner when not at work for my own concerns, but something has to give. In an attempt to strike some sort of balance, I'm trying to figure out to how to empty myself of non-work concerns when I arrive and focus completely on work while I'm here. (Which includes not reading around the internets while eating lunch or taking a quick break.)
We'll see if the semi-concentrated life works.