7 Simple Strategies to Nurture Your Self
7 Simple Strategies to Nurture Your Self
Last week, I wrote about the distinction between intellectually knowing something, and practically applying that knowledge. The article was written with respect to self-care, based on my realization that as much as I know the importance of self-care, I had fallen off the wagon somewhat and was doing little to actually care for myself meaningfully.
This article raised questions for many of you. Some of you were concerned for me (thanks for your words of encouragement!); some of you were relieved to know that you were not alone; and many of you had questions.
How do you know when situations are draining? How do you know when situations are enriching? How do you elevate your energy reserves, when you’ve hit rock bottom?
In answer to the first two questions, let me say this: you’ve simply got to pay attention. When you do, trust me, you will be able to distinguish between what energizes you, what nurtures you, what depletes you, what sends you spinning. And once you know the distinction, then you can choose accordingly.
Now, that being said, the last question is the one that I truly want to answer this week. I was amazed to hear from so many of you who were feeling as though you just had nothing left. And I was/am in total sympathy because I’ve been in that space myself recently. So, here are some simple strategies that I’ve learned to incorporate. Some are counter-intuitive; some are exactly what you’d expect. All will serve well.
- Connect. Make time for the people who raise your spirits. You know you have them. Those friends that always make you laugh. Those colleagues who offer support and a listening ear. Make time for these folks (and, conversely, minimize your time with the folks that drain you.
- Disconnect – from any and all things electronic. We live in a very “electronically-connected” world, so this can feel challenging. And yet, even 30 minutes of disconnecting from your tablet, your phone, your computer, your TV can go a long way to restoring your energy.
- Take a nap – or two, or ten. For goodness sake, rest is imperative when it comes to restoring your energy reserves. No matter how busy you think you are, or how little time you believe you have for rest, know this: if you don’t get sufficient rest, you actually will not be as productive as you could be – which is self-defeating.
- Treat food as fuel – and only give yourself the high-octane stuff. As much as possible, fill yourself with those things that are healthy, nutritious, and delicious. Yes, there are foods that are all of these things at once. Choose those (and throw in the occasional treat, because treats feel good too).
- Breathe. Deeply and often. In the busy-ness that is our world, too many of us are breathing rapidly, never taking the time to do so consciously or deeply. Even 3 slow, deep breaths will help to ground you, slow you down, and restore your sense of presence.
- Get outside. Whether you’re sitting on a park bench, going for a walk, or just sipping a tea on the front porch, allowing yourself the gift of time outdoors, breathing in fresh air, soaking up sunshine, feeling the breeze on your face, can be absolutely invigorating.
- Listen to music that elevates and makes you feel good. For me, especially at this time of year, there’s something lovely and divine and soothing about Christmas music. Maybe for you it’s something else – but whatever it is, having such “good” noise in the background will serve you better than distracting or irritating noise – you know the distinction.
Bottom-line: if you’re on the brink of overwhelm or in the throes of feeling depleted, there are simple strategies to restore your soul. The 7 strategies listed are a great start. Moreover, they are so easily implemented that they won’t consume any more energy that you don’t have. So, pick a strategy or two and work with them. Because taking care of you is what allows you to take care of others.
So, You Think You Know Something
Here’s my personal learning from this week: it’s one thing to know that something is true, it’s another thing entirely to act upon that knowledge. In other words, there’s knowing. And then there’s KNOWING.
For a while now, as I’ve been going about my work I’ve noticed that there is this underlying sense of fatigue. Actually, that’s an understatement. I am super-duper-tired. Like DRAINED, tired. To the point that I sometimes can’t articulate a coherent sentence (even that last sentence took me several drafts to get right!).
It has me wondering what the heck is going on. Am I coming down with something? I don’t think so. Am I stressed about anything? Nothing in particular…just the usual wondering about what’s next and how to blend 4 busy schedules in one household. But really, there’s nothing particularly earth-shattering that should be leading to such fatigue, I don’t think.
Until I take a closer look and see what’s staring me right in the face. Two things, actually.
- I’m not sleeping enough
- I’m not eating enough
This second point in particular had me stop dead in my tracks the other day. I literally went from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on nothing more than a slice (ONE slice!) of raisin toast and a glass of water. That’s it. What. The. Heck??
As I sat with that new-found bit of knowledge, I realized that I had so easily slipped into a trap that I’ve been working to steer around and that I caution others against. I’d fallen into the “I’ll grab something to eat when this is done” trap – forgetting that “this” always has more to be done. How the heck did that happen?
Yes, I’m busy these days. But no busier than anyone else I know. Yes, I have responsibilities that require my attention – but shouldn’t feeding myself be included in that list of responsibilities? You see, this is all stuff I KNOW. But clearly, I am not applying that knowledge. Which means I don’t REALLY know.
So, I’m taking a step back and challenging myself to apply my knowledge. The fact is that, in the hustle and bustle of recent changes in my life, I allowed myself to slip off track. That is not something to beat myself up over. It is, however, something to notice and change. Because without change, I will get myself into bigger trouble.
So, let’s take this learning out a wee bit. Let’s broaden the perspective. Where else might you have knowledge that you’re not applying? What do you KNOW intellectually to be true, that you’re not applying in practical terms? And what would it take to do so?
The reason I ask (beyond my simple love of questions) is this: my big learning this week has been that when you have knowledge that you don’t apply, you may as well not have the knowledge at all. You’re living in a state that is beyond ignorance – it’s, quite frankly, stupid (and I don’t use that word often). And it’s not serving you (or anyone else). If you KNOW something to be true, then you must live from that truth, otherwise you may as well not know it at all.
As I take the question broader, I realize that many of us – me, you, and everyone else – have these quasi-blind spots. They exist in the realm of relationships: it’s that situation where we KNOW that someone drains our energy, but we choose to hang around them anyway. They exist in the realm of career and work: it’s that situation where we KNOW that a company policy is being violated and we allow it to happen anyway. They exist in the realm of productivity: it’s that situation where we KNOW that we are procrastinating with a looming deadline, and we do it anyway. In all of these cases, what it all boils down to is self-sabotage. And that is never a good thing.
Bottom-line: knowledge is meaningless if you don’t apply it. Whether we’re talking about relationships, health, business strategy, work structures, or something else, if you have knowledge that you’re refusing to put into practice, you’re working against yourself. So, what’s it going to take for you to live from a space of applied knowledge, rather than theoretical? What’s it going to take for you to truly KNOW? It’s time to stop the self-sabotage. Take your knowledge and apply it. Live it. It’s time to take what you know, and walk the talk.
Want to Succeed? Learn to Surrender!
Anyone who’s ever met me, or heard me speak, or read my ezine for some time likely knows that “surrender” is a big value of mine. Like, BIG. It’s something that I hold dear because I know, on a cellular level, even when my brain wants to disagree, that surrender is the ultimate key to success. Which may sound bizarre, I know.
Surrender is one of those very misunderstood concepts. It’s often equated with giving up, or abandoning. But that’s not it at all. In actual fact, surrender is about understanding that as a human being you actually can’t – you simply cannot – do all that you want to do. You cannot have all that you want to have. At least not on your own.
Historically, different people and groups have tried to point us in the direction of this truth by sharing religious beliefs, establishing rituals that are anchored in faith and trust. But the surrender I’m talking about goes way beyond religion and simple ritual. Surrender is about understanding that once you’ve done all that you’re capable of, once you’ve created a plan, worked a plan, implemented a plan and given it your all, there is still more to be given. And that more is given from outside of yourself. So, you’ve got to let it go. That’s right. LET. IT. GO.
I realize that this might seem a little “out there” for many of you. And yet I also know that the reason it might seem “out there” is that you haven’t yet allowed yourself to experience the power of such surrender. Because let’s face it; surrender is not necessarily an easy thing to do.
In the context of living your life, of achieving your goals and dreams, of creating what you want for yourself, of becoming successful, surrendering seems to fly in the face of taking responsibility, doesn’t it? I mean, if you’re going to actively create your life on your terms, then don’t you have to keep at it – whatever ‘it’ is – until your objective is achieved? Well, yes; and no.
Your job is absolutely, as aforesaid, to do all that you can. And then, after you’ve done all that, after you’ve honestly done the best that you can and all that you can, you’ve got to let go of your attachment to your goal, understand that what you see or want to see is only part of the big picture and surrender the process over to the powers that be – whether you consider that to be God, the universe, your higher power or whatever. There is a force outside of you that is activated once you do your part; your job is to do your part and then allow that force to do its part. How do you do this? Here are a few steps:
- Be clear on what you’re wanting. Visualize, imagine what it is you’re heading for.
- Take action, as much as you can. Be deliberate and focused.
- Allow for inspiration; don’t bury your head in the sand or be so blinded that you can’t see when a detour might be what’s needed.
- Set your timeline, then allow things to unfold. Dance with time, knowing that while you might think something has to happen right here, right now, this way, there may be a bigger stage being set, for something even better.
- Remember that you can only see part of the picture and remind yourself that what you see isn’t all that there is.
Bottom-line: when it comes to achieving your goals, sitting around and wishing is not enough. Knowing what your goals are isn’t enough. Being crystal clear about your vision isn’t enough. And, ironically, doing all that you can do and relying on your own self isn’t enough. At some point, you’ve got to partner with the universe, surrender and allow. Trust that your vision is only a piece of what’s possible. And open yourself up to the possibility that what shows up will be even better when all is said and done, than what you even imagined it could be. This isn’t always easy to do. And, when you surrender, the payoff is well worth it.
Want to be Heard? It’s time to Stop THIS!
This past week, I had the opportunity to witness a couple of very interesting interactions. In each case, the individuals involved had different opinions and were passionate about their cause, whatever it was. Everyone wanted to be heard. And it seemed as though nobody was being heard.
It didn’t take long to realize why this was the case. When it came down to it, nobody was truly doing this one essential thing that matters when it comes to being heard. Can you guess what it was?
Oh, everyone thought that they were listening. If you asked them (and at one point, I actually did ask them), they would assert that they absolutely were listening. But what they were really doing was nothing more than taking turns; they were waiting for a break in the stream of the other person’s speaking, so that they in turn could speak. (Truthfully, at times they weren’t even waiting for the break; instead, they were speaking over one another (or trying to)).
Here’s the thing: everyone wants to be heard. We all feel so very strongly about our opinions, and we want to put them out in the world, but we do so at the expense of others. We don’t engage in real, true dialogue. We don’t truly hear one another.
We know enough about manners and expectations to “wait our turn” in conversation. But ”waiting your turn” is different from listening. As I read recently, there’s a difference between “listening to reply, rather than listening to understand”. Think about that for a moment. Can you feel the palpable difference between those two ways of listening?
I’m not 100% sure what it is that leads us to be this way. Perhaps it’s a certainty in our own sense of “rightness”. Or perhaps it’s less a certainty, and more of a need to be right. Regardless, when we listen to reply – in other words, when we simply allow others to speak, so that we in turn can speak, nobody is truly heard, and certainly, nobody is understood. This is problematic at the very least.
So, what does it take to truly listen? What does it take to “listen to understand”?
In short, we need to stop talking. It’s about getting comfortable with our own silence. It’s trusting that you will get a chance to speak AND you may not say what you originally thought you would. If you’re listening to understand someone else, then your response, when you’re ready to give it, might be very different from what you initially anticipate. Because, as you truly listen, your understanding of a situation might morph, shift and evolve which necessitates the changing of your original stance.
Moreover, whether your stance changes or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that you listened, truly listened, to someone else. When you “zip it” (“it” being “your mouth”), stop the inner chatter, truly put your entire focus on the other person and LISTEN to what they’re saying, rest assured, they will be heard. And you’ll pave the way for yourself to be heard as well.
Bottom-line: it’s time to stop talking and start listening. Stephen Covey articulates the 5th habit in his bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as “seek first to understand, then to be understood”. It’s time to put your ego aside, put your opinions aside, and truly listen to whatever is being said to you. Then you will truly hear others. And, others will hear you.
It’s Time to Stop Using This Phrase!
“I don’t know.”
This short little phrase has worked its way into our everyday vernacular to such a degree that for many people, it’s just a default setting. It’s their “go-to” answer.
-“What do you want for dinner?”
-“I don’t know.”
-“How’d you do on that test?”
-“I don’t know.”
-“What would you like to do when we go out tonight?”
-“I don’t know.”
In and of itself, the phrase seems innocuous. What I’m noticing, however, is that the effect of using this phrase without conscious thought is beyond negative. It’s life-altering. And not for the better. Let me explain.
While there are definitely things that you “don’t know”, as a human being, you are incredibly resourceful. In other words, you have the capacity to find out, to learn, to discover, to know. Especially in this day and age, when information is so readily at your fingertips (literally, given the prevalence of computer access and the internet), whatever it is you “don’t know” can in fact be “known” sooner than you think.
The challenge with continually using the phrase “I don’t know” is that you essentially disempower yourself on a regular basis. You deny yourself the opportunity to discover, to learn, to gain knowledge. In so many instances – and my sense is that this is particularly true within the fast pace of our world – when you say “I don’t know”, you let yourself off the hook for doing something, for discovering something, for expanding your capacity.
So, what is it that gets in the way of you taking the time to “know”? I would assert that there are a couple of culprits at play.
- Time. You tell yourself that you don’t have time to “find out” the answer, to think about the answer, to sit with whatever question has been asked, and so you default to “I don’t know.” And far too often, you get away with it.
- Discomfort. Sometimes there’s an awareness that the answer is an uncomfortable one, or that the answer will raise emotions that you’d rather not deal with and so, instead of owning and being with the answer, whatever it is, you say you “don’t know.”
- Fear. This is related to discomfort, and it’s different. Often, there’s a fear that the answer will cause an undesirable outcome – disappointment on the part of the questioner, or perhaps judgment. And so rather than risk those sorts of experiences, you stand in “I don’t know.”
- Laziness. Heaven forbid you should actually invest of yourself – whether in time, or energy – to discover the answer. Often when you say “I don’t know”, you are absolved of the responsibility to find out.
- Lack of presence. You’re so busy being “un-engaged” to what’s being asked, it’s just easier to say “I don’t know” and hope that the questioner moves on.
So what’s the key to moving past what I call “I-don’t –know syndrome?”
First, pay attention to your use of the phrase. Catch yourself using it, and challenge yourself to change it.
Second, ask yourself which culprit (named above) is at play. Get to the root of the issue.
Third, give yourself permission to take a guess. The answer you give may not be right, but it will be an answer. And it will get you past the stuckness of “I don’t know.”
Bottom-line: you know far more than you’re giving yourself credit for. If you want to really show up and play a bigger game, it’s time to access that knowing. Stop selling yourself short, and start living from the space of knowing.
What’s Your Relationship with Gratitude?
This past weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada. In a little over a month, our neighbours to the south of us will have their Thanksgiving holiday. These occasions are all about taking time to pause and give thanks for all that we have, all that we are, all that we experience. While it’s nice to have a special holiday in this way, having a regular practice of gratitude is equally important.
How does gratitude show up in your everyday life?
You see, one of the things I have learned is that it is really easy to take simple, daily blessings for granted. When we do this, we minimize the good that is in our lives, and inadvertently shrink the space that’s available for more blessings. It’s an energetic thing. When we can’t express gratitude for what is, we can’t create space for more.
So, when was the last time you took stock and gave thanks for what is?
Each of us, no matter our circumstance, is living an experience of opposites. On the one hand, we have things that are immediately recognizable as “gratitude-worthy” – perhaps our health, our strength, our food, time to rest. On the other hand, we have things that are “burdensome” to some degree – fatigue, never-ending-to-do-lists, difficult conversations to engage in. These are things that we’re less likely to feel thankful for.
When faced with these everyday, mundane experiences, our tendency as human beings is to focus on the ones that we’re NOT grateful for, rather than the ones that are more blessing-like. Our focus is on trying to fix what we don’t like, rather than appreciate what we do like. And so, slowly but surely, we start to think that our blessings are outweighed by our so-called burdens.
It’s time to shift focus, folks.
If focusing on our challenges makes us lose sight of our blessings, trust me when I say that the process can work equally well in reverse. When we focus on our blessings, we are less inclined to notice the challenges, or perhaps, less inclined to feel burdened by them.
The expression of gratitude is a simple, simple way to energetically shift our lives into a more positive space. No matter what you’re experiencing, rest assured, there’s something for which you can be grateful.
Bottom-line: gratitude is a good, good thing. Energetically, it lightens your load and brightens your day. No matter what’s going on for you, finding space for gratitude will serve you well. So, for what will you give thanks today?
How Do You Recognize Success?
There’s a common belief out there in the world that goes something like this: if you work hard you will be successful. Well guess what: this is not entirely true. I know plenty of people who seem to “work hard” and continue to struggle. Anyone watching them would use a variety of words to describe their circumstance and yet, “success” would not be one of them. I also know many “successful” people who seem to do little in the way of “hard” work. So, what exactly is the link between effort and success?
Here’s my take on it: life, while definitely challenging, is never meant to be burdensome. No matter what the task at hand, there is a path of ease which will afford you the experience of success. Find the path of ease, and you’ll experience success. Whoa.
Now, understand this: I am not suggesting that you don’t have to work to experience success. Work in some form is definitely required. As a colleague of mine is fond of saying, “the universe rewards action.” When you work so that you are expending energy in a futile manner, however, when you are “busting your butt” so-to-speak, you’re not necessarily guaranteed the experience of success. The energy you expend has got to be married with a couple of things: clarity of purpose (the “why” of what you’re doing) and an understanding of what you’re wanting the outcome to be (the “what” that you’re aiming to create). Until and unless you have a solid sense of the “why” and the “what”, you will inevitably choose the hardest “how” possible. In other words, you will choose a burdensome path.
When you know “why” you’re pursuing a particular objective, your actions will be fueled with purpose. When you know “what” you’re striving to create, your actions can be channeled into a specific vision and outcome. Being solidly anchored in the “why” and the “what” allows you to expend energy meaningfully, and when you expend energy meaningfully the “burden” is lifted. Always.
Bottom-line: if you’re grappling to achieve success, I guarantee you that there’s a fogginess around your sense of purpose and/or your vision. Get clear on these two aspects of success for yourself, and you’ll be able to achieve what you’re striving for, for sure. It may not be what others think success should look like for you, but it will in fact be your vision of success. And, you’ll have achieved it with a sense of ease and fulfillment. Now, doesn’t that sound like true success?
To Stay the Course Or Not? How Do You Decide?
One of the things I know for sure is that every human being wonders from time to time about the path that they’re on: whether it’s right or wrong, where it’s headed, how best to travel on it. The question I’ve been holding in my own life and leadership – as I tend to do at this time of year – is this: what do you do when you realize you’re on the wrong path? When it comes to the journey of life, whether you’ve simply taken a wrong turn, or chosen the wrong destination, or aligned yourself with the wrong travelling companions, what do you do when you realize that you’ve made a mistake?
Well, the way I see it, you’ve got a couple of options. You could choose to stay the course and see what transpires. Maybe this so-called wrong path will actually take you where you want, even though it doesn’t seem to be aligned at the moment. After all, there’s something to be said for being patient and persistent. Or, you could choose to take the nearest exit and attempt to reroute yourself, finding a path that feels more direct. Notice that I didn’t say finding an “easier” path, just a “more direct” one, if that’s possible. Either way, you’ve got to take a moment to stop, think and choose (or re-choose, as the case may be).
If you’re finding yourself travelling with companions that no longer feel aligned with your chosen direction, you’ve got other options. You could find a way to leave them behind; perhaps you race ahead, maybe you take an alternate route, or maybe you simply part ways. Or you could find a perspective that allows you to continue travelling with them, based on the idea that you’d rather travel with someone than on your own. This latter option, however, only works if these companions aren’t holding you back or keeping you stuck and playing small. If they are in any way preventing you from reaching your destination, then you really are better off parting ways and finding new companions.
I guess the reason I’m exploring this question right now is that I see far too many settling on their life’s journey. There’s almost an air of “well, I’m on this path, I guess I’ll just stick it out.” On the surface, this seems almost commendable; I mean, there’s something about “stick-to-it-iveness” that is praise-worthy, don’t you think? And yet, that same stick-to-it-iveness could be read as banging your head against a wall, and you and I both know that this doesn’t get you anywhere except perhaps on the couch with a wicked headache.
Bottom-line: travelling your life’s journey – just like travelling on any journey – requires a willingness to stay the course (travelling through storms, road construction and heavy traffic) coupled with an ability to stay alert and determine when the path you’re on no longer serves. When the path you’re on reaches this point, it’s time to course correct: take the nearest exit, find new travelling companions, or alter your destination. Staying the course is admirable; adjusting your plans, however, so that you reach the destination you’re actually meant to, while enjoying the journey as best you can is what is truly commendable. So take the time to decide; will you stay the course? Or is it time to take the nearest exit?
What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do?
Help! I’m stuck! With recent events in my life, including my long-awaited move into my new home, there have been moments when I have been paralyzed by the feeling of not knowing what to do. Do I write next week’s ezine, or do I craft my next workshop? Do I unpack these boxes, or do I arrange the bedroom furniture? Do I make dinner now or later?
Sometimes the “stuckness” has been rooted in a feeling of too much choice, sometimes it’s been not enough choice, sometimes it’s a sense of fogginess, sometimes it’s just plain-old not-knowing.
Have you ever had that feeling? Sorry, it’s a rhetorical question; what I know for sure is that as a human being, getting stuck from time to time is simply part of the experience. Whether it’s at work, or in your personal life, moments of stuckness and uncertainty abound.
Sometimes such moments strike from out of the blue; you’re moving along tickity boo and then out of nowhere you’re not moving out all.
Sometimes, you can see it coming, the slow winding down to a complete standstill.
Sometimes it’s not being stuck so much as being in a fog, moving, but not really accomplishing anything.
Regardless of how it looks, feeling stuck is not a whole lot of fun. It’s one thing to choose to not do anything. It’s another thing altogether to want to be doing something, and not feeling able to, regardless of the reason.
So, how do you get unstuck, when you’re stuck? How do you decide what to do, when you’re not sure what it is you should be doing?
My experience has been that getting unstuck isn’t as hard as it might initially seem. Here are a couple of strategies for getting unstuck that I have found helpful over the years.
- Stop. Now, this may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes the reason you’re not making progress is because you’re busy spinning your metaphorical wheels. This is getting you nowhere, so just stop. Take a breath. Look around. Now choose a DIFFERENT action from what you were doing. This will often get you out of the rut and moving forward productively.
- Look outward. Sometimes when you’re stuck it’s because you’ve got your focus on the wrong direction. Instead of looking inward and trying to figure out what to do, look outward and ask yourself what needs to be done.
- Move around. In this day and age of computer-based work, it is far too easy to literally get stuck in the same position. So, if you’re feeling stuck in terms of knowing what work to do, get your body up and moving. Often this will lead to a parallel experience of movement in the brain and ideas will start to flow and you will actually be able to move in work-mode.
- Dive in. If you’re stuck to the point of doing nothing, then just do something. Anything. The thing you do may not be the “right” thing, but the doing of something will at least kick-start the whole “doing” energy, which will very likely prompt action in other, more appropriate areas.
- Look for another option. Sometimes the feeling of being stuck is rooted in a lack of options. If you’re striving to choose between “a” and “b” and getting nowhere, look for the third option. Often, in finding another option you can find your way forward.
Bottom-line: sometimes you just get stuck. Period. It’s okay, and getting unstuck isn’t as impossible a feat as it might seem. The key is to just get yourself moving. Too often, the reason you are stuck in the first place is as a result of “analysis paralysis” – you’re waiting for things to be perfect before acting, you’re trying to hard to figure it out, and that need for perfection is getting in the way of you doing anything. So just dive in and get going. You can always course-correct as you move along.
Time For Work?
I read a quote recently that perfectly captured a lesson that has been crystallizing for me over the summer. It relates to our notions of work, productivity and efficiency.
J. Hayden says, “Work expands to fill the time allotted to it. If you want to get more done, give each task only the amount of time it is worth to you. And if you want to work less, allow less time for work.”
When I first read this quote, my response was a less-than-eloquent, “huh”. And as I sat with it, I could feel a certain level of excitement building. It’s the excitement that accompanies what I experience as cellular truth, something I know instinctively in my very cells. C. J. Hayden has managed to beautifully articulate WHY so many are constantly in work mode, and why work never seems to get done. Let’s break it down.
In a nutshell, time acts as a vacuum, and work expands to fill that vacuum. So, if you allow 8 hours to your “work” time, rest assured, you will find at least 8 hours worth of work to do, even if you don’t think you’ve got that much to do when you start.
Knowing this, if you want to accomplish more, then it makes sense to shrink the amount of time you allot to any one task, then move on to another task allowing it a set amount of time as well. Make sense? In this way, more work actually gets done because each task will get completed in the time allotted to it, rather than trying to do a list of multiple things in a large, undefined block of time.
On the flip side, if you feel like you want to cut down on the amount of time you spend working, then you need to cut down on the time you allow for work. Period. In this age of self-employment and booming entrepreneurship, this lesson is a critical one. It’s far too easy to let work “spill over” into personal time. As someone who often works from home, in a lovely home office space, with an easily accessed computer, this is something that I know first-hand. If I don’t definitively “cut off” the time I’m allowed to be in work-mode, then I am seemingly “forever” in work-mode.
So, how do you allot less time for work? In practical terms, how does this actually play out? Well, first, you’ve got to stop what I’ve recently heard called “the glorification of busy.” Your merit as a human being is in no way related to how much time you spend in work mode, so stop acting as if they two are somehow linked.
Second, set time limits, and honour them. Period. If you are supposed to be out of the office at 5, then head out the door at 5. Rest assured, whatever is on your “must complete list” can be completed tomorrow.
Third, get definitive about how much time you will allot to a specific task. Stop working from a “lengthy” list, and start working task by task.
Fourth, remember that you are only responsible for your list: poor planning on someone else’s part does not require you to add his/her unfinished project to your list.
Finally, if you hit a “block” at some point on your list, move on to the next task. There is no point in spinning your wheels on a task that seems stuck. Get moving on something else and then come back; rest assured, the “stuckness” will likely have unstuck itself.
Bottom-line: it’s time to get deliberate about moving out of work mode. Yes, there is work to be done – and there always will be. Get clear on how much time you will spend each day in “work mode”, and what that work will look like. And when you’re done, be done. Give yourself permission to experience “un-work-mode”. Rest assured, you’ll be glad you did and, ironically, your work will be better for it.