The November Slump

For some people, November is a time for writing. For others, a time for growing a mustache. For me, November is a time for taking a breath or two.

The first week of the month, my biggest client has its annual conference, an event I’ve worked toward for the better part of the year. After that, it seems that all I’m left with is piles of scrap paper covered in months’ worth of notes, the remnants of to-do lists that have been superseded by more pressing tasks, and an inbox that, even if I’m lucky, still stretches its tail back to the previous spring.

I know I should be prepared for the November slump, anticipate what the future is going to hold, and have the next few months of work already lined up. In most cases, however, that’s not what happens. I come back from the client’s conference with the aftertaste of glory for a job well done, and the knowledge that in a few months everything will start again.

November is the time when I depressurize, when I learn to take my time. I pick up side projects only I and few others care about. I catch up on TV shows. I figure out if I can still play the violin.

Even during busier times of year I try to establish a routine that allows me not to jump head first into my day, but ease into it with at least an hour of reading—and I make sure that not all of the things I read are work-related. Anything I can’t do during those early hours of the morning will inevitably accumulate in several corners, both physical and digital. What I can’t take care of during some more relaxed summer weeks will have to wait until November.

No matter when it happens, the end of a project is bound to be followed by a sense of void, and by the impression that I’m not doing enough. Putting aside the piles of notes, ignoring the incomplete task lists, and trying, even just for a few days, to forget about the minutiae of work is a possible cure for this void, and a way to swat at the anxiety about the future, whose shadow is already peeking from around the corner.

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