The trickiest part of adopting a work routine was learning to stop for the day.

I would always want to do some extra pages while I had “momentum.” But I learned to resist this urge.

I learned from some wise friends that chasing these feelings of “productivity” and “virtue” was foolish, especially when these feelings, which are just twisted forms of anxiety, had nothing to do with actual productivity or virtue.

Exhausting myself by the end of every workday had felt like the “correct” way to live (thanks, capitalism!). But exhausting myself only made my recovery time longer and beginning work the next day harder. When you’ve been a freelancer for almost twenty years, you get used to deadline sprints. But I was translating books now, not to mention pushing forty, and I couldn’t pull those hours anymore.

So I learned to save a little bit of energy at the end of the work day, emphatically switching off my external keyboard and trackpad as soon as I hit that day’s quota. I use the excess momentum to think about dinner, to read a book, or to look at the big picture. Or to look at pictures of cats. Where is the “productivity” of looking at pictures of cats? There isn’t any, but there is definitely virtue in it.

Interestingly, I became less productive over short periods of time, but much more productive over the long run. It made sense, because I continued to have good energy for longer periods of time. And, because I also had more time to read more books and look at cat pictures, I became more virtuous as well.

I’ve tried many times over my career to adopt a routine (again, twenty years of freelancing!) and failed.

This time, I succeeded. Because this time, and only this time, I learned to stop.