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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Have you found yourself wishing there was more time? Time to do the things you know you need to do? When is the last time you took a moment to really rest? And no, I’m not talking about when you rested because you got sick and had to go to bed for a day.
There is always more work to do than there is time to do it in. Pressures mount from all sides. Sometimes our fear of looking bad, letting someone down, and not being seen as a team player keeps us running on fumes rather than recovering. We never turn off, whether our minds, our phones, or our email. It is a natural response to more coming at us. We start losing sleep, drinking more caffeine, eating sugary foods or skipping meals altogether. We cram more into the schedule and do absolutely nothing for recovery.
The question is how to “find the time” to recover. You don’t. You make the time.
You make it a priority. It’s the only way. This is a somewhat difficult thing to accept for me (and maybe you too), but here’s how it works: we make time for what really matters. We just do. If you aren’t “finding the time” to do what you need to do, whatever you are answering to (a boss, a client, your ego) is more important to you than the thing you are not doing. You are stuck in a competing commitment, and the one that is winning is your priority.
Today is my “off day” from skiing. While still early in the season, I’ve been going at it hard. This is a deliberate day off, notwithstanding the beautiful, warm water and holiday. (I’m writing this on Memorial Day 2017 – thank you to those who offered the ultimate sacrifice!)
This was a super difficult thing for me today. See, water skiing is addictive (in a good way) and taking any day off to recover means I don’t get the thrill and the adrenaline rush.
Yet recovery is absolutely necessary if I am to last the season or just ski better later in the week. Whether my mind is burned out or not (it’s not), my body is. Skiing is an intense sport. Unless I follow the principle of oscillation, my body will enter a performance decline curve and then I will start practicing skiing tired, which will lead to bad form, which will lead to worse skiing, which will possibly lead to injury and much less skiing. So I rest in order to keep going, even though right this minute, I want to go ski.. If you work out and you don’t change the muscle groups your working on, your muscles plateau and it makes it really hard to continue getting stronger.
The same applies to any endeavor. When I go hard without recovery, my decisions start slipping, my mind gets foggy, I work tired, make unnecessary mistakes, and things slip through the cracks. More importantly, my inner world becomes more chaotic, making my external world more testy. Relationships suffer and eventually I will get sick. All because I was unwilling to follow some simple recovery practices. (And maybe because I think I’m superhuman?)
Nope, it’s because I’m stuck in that competing commitment that puts something “out there” in front of what really matters.
This has been an excruciating lesson for me to learn.
It removes my excuses and forces me to face myself and my convoluted logic. I hate it.
Yet I have found that anytime I am not doing what I “should be doing” or I can’t “find the time”, it’s because I’m stuck in a competing commitment, and my actions are showing me what matters most.
So today, I decided that recovery mattered more than the thrill of skiing.
This is a principle I work with my clients with as well. Even the busiest people can stop once an hour and take a few deep breaths. They can do some muscle tensing and relaxing, which is surprisingly effective. Teams doing massive projects stop for recovery and check in every six to eight weeks – and discover that recovery allows you to “go slow to go fast.
We cannot perform at the highest levels if we are always on. We have to know how to turn it off in order to turn it on.
Over the years, I’ve come to see recovery as one of the most important elements to performing at high levels. When I deliberately manage my energy – through how I manage my body, mind, emotion and spirit –I can do more and I’m less likely to collapse into a heap of human Jello at the end of the day.
What do you do to recover? What are the most productive practices that you have found to help you bounce back after setbacks or major energy expenditures?
As always, I would love to learn from you in the comments!
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