Here’s a fact: you cannot be both off and on at the same time.

You might want to argue with me, but I bet that’s only because you really want it to be true. Me too. But hey, if wanting something to be true made it so, I imagine a whole lot of things in life would look a lot different.

Here’s the thing: anything claiming to do two things at once is doing neither of them particularly well.

It’s like 2-in-1 shampoo. Is it shampooing your hair, or is it conditioning? We’ll never really know… at least until it dries and you see the evidence. The best thing about 2-in-1 shampoo is the ridiculous old commercials, and that’s not saying much. Remember Timotei? Good grief. Why is she washing her hair in a field?

Anyway…

I mean, honestly: if you’re so tight for time that you can’t give yourself an extra forty-five seconds in the shower, then I suspect your experience of life is not all that you’d like it to be, and that might be the place to look for something to improve (rather than improving your hair-washing time).

I had a couple of weeks off recently, and I found myself in a familiar predicament. I had two weeks of freedom from my normal structured schedule, and I was going to get So Much Done. Y’all know that one?

I was going to finish the two sticky chapters I’m revising/rewriting in my book, get 4 weeks ahead on blog posts and content creation, clear my endlessly overwhelmed inboxes, go through my closet and do a thorough spring purge, list some stuff that’s been sitting around the house to get rid of, and start seedlings to try growing vegetables again (with hopefully more success than last year). I was also going to get outside loads and connect with friends for walks and hikes (about the only way we can hang out right now).

Oh, and I was going to relax, too. You guys, I was going to relax, hard. So much relaxing was going to happen.

It’s important to note that I also spent 4 of those 10 days guest teaching for coaching programs, which is something I love to do, but requires a significant amount of dedicated time.

I think you may already have spotted what I didn’t see until it was too late: I was trying to do a lot of different things that didn’t necessarily go together.

The long and short of it is that I didn’t get nearly as many things done as I’d have liked to have checked off my list, and I also felt like I had squandered my time off without relaxing and enjoying myself, to boot.

I wasn’t productive enough on my vacation, and I wasn’t chill enough, either. I did it all wrong, as my judgmental inner critic likes to remind me frequently, which counts as an extra failure of my person. So I got to round out my time off with a solid lose-lose-lose, just in time to return to my regular schedule.

I suppose you could argue that I had an awful lot on my plate for a staycation that was meant to include steady bouts of hard relaxing, too. Honestly? You wouldn’t be wrong.

Can you relate? Have you ever failed at vacation because not only could you not unwind, but you also couldn’t meet your lofty aspirations of intense-but-somehow-still-relaxing holiday productivity?

Was I off or was I on? That’s a great question. Who the hell knows? Certainly not me. I didn’t really clarify the intention of my time off, or check in to see if the stuff I wanted to accomplish would support that intention. I mean, how could it support my intention if I didn’t really know my intention in the first place?

Some things seem like they can be off and on at the same time. Like a dining room light, if it has a dimmer switch that allows you to adjust the intensity. Just for the record, though, even if it’s dim, it’s still on.

I showed up on my time off like I have a dimmer switch (I don’t), and one that would just automatically adjust, as though by magic, to accommodate all of what I wanted to achieve and experience (not possible).

I was on all the time, but with aspirations of being off. I was off in theory, but on in practice.

But if we’re never really off, then we’re never really on, either.

Does this sound familiar? Do you struggle to turn it off? Do you keep pretending you have a dimmer switch, when really, it’s just that you’re unwilling to let yourself actually BE off?

If you think you have to be on all the time, let me just remind you that even the sun sets each and every day, so…

This isn’t about having space. It’s about having boundaries. Drawing lines in the sand. And then actually minding the lines you’ve drawn, as opposed to blowing right through them with nary a second glance.

Letting ourselves be off is just as important as being on. Maybe more so, in fact, since—just like lights and other electronic devices and also everything in Nature—turning off is how we conserve energy, let batteries charge, and allow systems to update.

Being on all the time is not actually letting you get more done; it’s diminishing your capacity to be productive and costing you the ability to unwind, relax and enjoy yourself, at the same time.

If you want to be on, you’re going to need to clarify when you’re off and draw those lines in between. Believe it or not, keeping those boundaries won’t confine you; they’ll set you free.

There are many awesome things you can try to be in this life. 2-in-1 shampoo is not one of them.