There is a new four letter word in the corporate world. I hear it with virtually every client I meet with. The word?
Given that the tools designed to help us with our busy-ness have exploded into a huge industry, you would think we would be saying “I’m so productive.” “I’m getting more done than ever.” “I can’t believe how easy the cloud has made my life.” “My scheduling software makes my life a breeze.”
Our tools are running us. Emails ding. Texts ping. Phones ring.
And we answer. Actually, we jump.
“Need that report? Let me get it for you yesterday.” “Want those numbers? Sure, I’ll drop everything to get them to you.” “Where’s that file? No worries, I will drop this very useful work I’m doing right now to help you find it.” “Want me at the meeting? Of course I’ll be there.” Not every time. But enough to be harmful.
At first glance, it sounds like the ideal employee. Fast, responsive, caring, engaged.
This ideal employee is also just as likely to be over-committed, frantic, insecure and burned out.
123RF Stock Photo (Olegdudko)
The hacks designed to help us with busy aren’t working. No number of better calendars, to do lists, note taking apps, or other new and better tools are helping me or my clients with dealing with being too busy. Busy is more a reflection of our inner world than it is an indicator of our outer world.
Busy is how we handle more than we can handle.
We let our days run us, instead of us running our days.
Pretty soon that means our life is running us and we are not getting what we want out of life, nor are we doing what we are here to do. Because we are doing what everybody else want us to do. This may sound crazy – but we have become slaves to the external demands on our time and it’s sucking us dry.
Earlier this year, I realized that my day was starting with the question: “what’s happening in the world?” I turned on the news and for 30 minutes, would go through my stretching and yoga, while at the same time allowing my head to be filled with whatever the news director of the channel wanted to tell me that day. Trust me when I tell you that no news director had my best interest at heart in planning the days news. What they care about is ratings and whatever agenda their particular brand carries to get those ratings.
By the time I finished breakfast and went to do my meditation, much of my day’s mood had already been set. I wasn’t really even aware of what was happening; then one day, I heard a business man I respect mention the importance of controlling “inputs” in context of establishing a strong daily architecture.
Now, I’ve prided myself on very clearly structuring my mornings so that my day has the best start possible. As I mentioned, I do yoga, eat a great breakfast, meditate and plan. My first reaction to the idea of a structured daily architecture was self-congratulatory. “I’m good.” I thought. However, when I really looked at it, there was a hole big enough to drive a truck through.
I was letting the news media speak more loudly to me than the wisdom I might have captured through starting my day in reflection.
So I tried an experiment. In early July, I started meditating FIRST. Just this one shift in my daily architecture made a humongous difference in my approach to the rest of my day. And it got results. In every venue where performance mattered (like skiing, teaching, coaching) I could tell a difference. My skiing improved enough for a long-time coach to refer to “new Lynn” vs “old Lynn” when talking about how I might try something new.
As we come to the end of 2017 and start considering how to approach 2018, I suggest reviewing your daily architecture (i.e. The habits and routines that frame your day). Where could it be better? What are you choosing to do that is taking away from your ability to run your life?
Where are you allowing external factors to determine your inner state of well-being?
These questions barely scratch the surface. If we are to really solve the busy problem, our questions have to go deeper. What do we do about our true reasons for always being available? What is speaking in our inner world that makes us do things we would rather not do? What has made “no” a dirty word? What’s so bad about failure?
Stay tuned – we will address these questions and more in the next blog.
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The year was 1983 and I was a baby banker working for THE bank in my hometown. About six weeks before the cookie event, our group found out we would all be getting off work early Friday to go to a “pool party” at one of the executive’s houses.
Woohoo! An afternoon off! Wait – a pool party? That would involve bathing suits (that’s what we called them back then) No thank you – I will just stay at work and hold down the fort.
Then I decided there were six weeks and lots of good eating habits between me and the dreaded bathing suit party. So I started dieting and I was really, really good. For six whole weeks, I abstained from every kind of food I loved. Hunger was ever present and I couldn’t wait for the pool party to be over.
The day of the party arrived and my thing to bring to the party was chocolate cookies. Well, I’m pretty sure I decided to bring cookies because I had eaten enough salads to fill the swimming pool.
On the day of the party, the big box of cookies was sitting next to my desk. Every time I smelled them, my mouth watered. The first half of the morning I resisted – I had been sooooo good for so long. Then I decided that one cookie wouldn’t kill me.
So I ate it. It was as delicious as my mouthwatering dreams had promised. Then the floodgates opened. I had another. And then another. After 3, I had to do something with the rising guilt. How could I have lost my willpower so fast? I had a choice. Either stop eating cookies or find a way to make it ok.
Here was my justification: the fat from eating cookies now could not possibly hit my thighs in the next 3 hours. I will look the same in my bathing suit in three hours as I do right now. So eating more cookies will not hurt a THING! Let’s have one more.
I have no idea how many cookies I ate that day – but it was a lot. Enough to make me feel sick. It might have been the last time I ever baked chocolate chip cookies.
I don’t remember if I gained a bunch of weight from eating all those cookies, nor do I even remember the party all that much. I’m pretty sure my good eating habits went out the window for at least another decade.
What I mostly remember from cookie event was the way I made my choice that day. How I justified going back to my old habits. It was years before I learned to make a real change in my eating habits.
It was years before I learned to make real change in anything that mattered.
Instead of changing, I was an expert in justifying. There is a good reason that I did – whatever it is that you tell me I could do better.
My internal logic went something like this: “If you only knew why I did whatever-bad-thing you are talking-to me about, you would agree that I did the RIGHT thing.” So I would proceed to justify and explain and sell and whatever else it took for you to see than I couldn’t, wouldn’t possible change.
Our minds can work that way. It’s so much easier to justify than it is to actually change something.
It’s so easy to take a grain of dissatisfaction (I need to lose 5 pounds, I need to be kinder, I need to balance my work time better) and decide it’s ok when faced with the reality of what it will take to change.
What I have found works for me is to let that dissatisfaction grow instead of diminishing it. I have to recognize the consequences of whatever it is I need to change rather than finding reasons I don’t need to change it.
Does it work all the time? Heck no! But I have made some substantial changes in my life.
The truth is that it works when I really want it to.
Where are you justifying something you really want to change? What is staying stuck, even though you don’t like it?
Where are you living slightly satisfied instead of facing what you really need to change?
We are coming to the end of another year – what is it time for you to truly change?
Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_pinkomelet'>pinkomelet / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
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