Your email pings. Your message app pings. Your other message app pings. You’ve got forty-seven notifications and thirteen new requests and an overflowing inbox. It all seems urgent. After all, it pinged. That must mean it’s important.
Your brain is hard-wired to respond to immediate stimulus. This is another survival mechanism. Anything that sounds like “Alert! Something is happening!” gives us a little hit of adrenaline, whether it’s a rustle in the bush that indicates a hungry tiger is nearby or a text from the spouse reminding you to get milk on your way home.
Correspondingly, our brain releases a hit of the “feel-good” chemical dopamine each time we feel a sense of achievement, even if that achievement is simply texting back, “Yes. Milk. Love you.” As Simon Sinek explains in his brilliant book Leaders Eat Last, we can get addicted to the cycle of doing and doing and doing, and we fail to notice that nothing is actually getting done.
We get addicted to the cycle of doing and doing and doing, and we fail to notice that nothing is actually getting done.
Bringing just a bit of mindfulness to your daily movements can help a lot. One way to check in with yourself is to play the Because/Because game.
The Because/Because game asks you to pause for one moment before you begin an activity and ask why you are doing what you’re doing and why you’re the person doing it.
So, in the moment before you start catching up with the bookkeeping for your side hustle, you might have this conversation with yourself: “Why am I doing this bookkeeping? Because it’s important to me that I know whether this side business is really profitable. Why am I the one doing this? Because even though I dislike doing these kinds of detail-oriented tasks, I’m the only employee.” Now, this awareness might not lead you to hire an assistant immediately, but once you’ve had this conversation with yourself five times in a week, you might start to see the value of getting some help.
On the other hand, if you find yourself dreading a visit to Sad Susan, your friend who just ended yet another disastrous love affair, you might hear yourself thinking, “Why am I going to see Susan? Because she needs a shoulder to cry on. Why am I the one doing this? Because even though Susan’s love life is a non-stop soap opera, I care deeply about her happiness.” Remembering your true motivation can put a smile back on your face as you stop off along the way for the margarita mix and ice cream.
Little Changes Action Step: Put a few of your least favorite activities through the Because/Because game. Are there any that you could you eliminate from your life today?
The good news… this quick tip will help you with any project or goal you are interested in starting or completing.
Now find the tension between you and your goal and get started today!
Chapter 14 – Minimum Daily Requirement
Now, I love home-remodeling shows, but I also believe that we are naturally inclined toward productivity. We love to be learning, doing, and playing. We love to stretch and grow and solve problems, and we love to feel like we’re making a contribution to the world . Too much unstructured time can be stressful and depressing. When we don’t know what to do with ourselves, we give up.
The trick is to inject some creative tension into your life. The word tension gets a bad rap, but remember that it is structural tension that holds the keystone in every arch — and sexual tension is often the beginning of all kinds of wonderful things .
Think of a goal that frightens you a little bit, something that stirs you up, maybe even something that you’re pretty sure is impossible. Let it loom large in your mind. Connect with it. Feel the energetic relationship — the tension — between where you are now and where the goal is. Feel that energetic spoke of the net between you and that goal, and let that tension to pull you forward into taking one first step.
When you’ve taken one step, celebrate. It’s easy to brush aside first steps, especially when you believe that you really should be farther along already, but don’t. You did something, which is more than you did yesterday. Which is excellent. Be proud.
But I didn’t want to leave it out because even if you just go with this snippet it will help:
Chapter 12 – Quit Buying Groceries at the Quickie Mart
When people talk to me about not having enough time in their day, I usually find some combination of these misjudgments:
· not being realistic about how much time some tasks actually take
· not prioritizing activities, or allowing priorities to shift
· failing to think things through, not planning ahead
When you are not realistic with yourself about how much time something actually takes, you feel rushed. And when you fail to prioritize your activities, you end up spending way too much time on the wrong things and don’t have nearly enough time for the right things.
When you fail to plan ahead, you end up scrambling around at the last minute, and often the results are unsatisfactory.
For example, maybe you often don’t remember that you’ve got to make dinner until you’re on your way home, forcing you to grab whatever groceries you can find at the local Quickie Mart. Instead, take the time to put those responsibilities into your schedule right along with your other commitments. Too often your personal tasks end up being crammed into the corners of your day, and you then you are forced to rush, which just adds to your feelings of being overwhelmed.
Remember to account for transit time: getting stuck in traffic time, finding a parking place time and waiting for the elevator time. Failing to account for the time it takes to get from one place to another is a leading cause of pernicious lateness, and is one of the hallmarks of the permanently overwhelmed.
There’s a half-completed sweater in the knitting basket. There’s the first three chapters of a novel in a drawer. There are the specialty tools that you bought to make the ornaments for baby’s first Christmas, even though baby is now entering the fifth grade.
When you see a reminder of something you’ve left undone everywhere you look, you are automatically going to feel exhausted. Half-completed tasks create what productivity guru David Allen calls “open loops” in your mind, and those open loops take up a lot of bandwidth.
There are plenty of good reasons to have stopped moving forward on a project. You might have simply lost interest. That’s fine. There are no starving creative artists in Antarctica being deprived because you didn’t finish what’s on your plate, so to speak.
You might have stopped because you made a mistake or hit a wall, and your misguided perfectionism won’t let you keep going. This could be a good time to make some 5-Minute Art about that perfectionist voice and see if you can’t liberate your project from her thorny clutches. It’s not like there’s really a right way to do creative things .
Fear of commitment can sometimes play a role, too. Allowing yourself to get too deep into a project might mean that it’s actually important to you, and it might have a real impact on your life, your work, and your relationships. So you keep it casual. Being a creative Casanova might feel like it’s protecting your heart, but ultimately you’re setting yourself up for dissatisfaction. What do you suppose might happen if you committed fully to your work?
I’ve also seen people quit mid-project because they find themselves in what the master consensus facilitator Sam Kaner calls the “Groan Zone.” He uses this expression to describe the point in consensus facilitation where diverse opinions have been expressed, and it feels like you’ve reached an impasse and will never find common ground — which is often the moment right before some new and beautiful solution emerges. I find it works equally well to refer to the sloggy middle of any project. Once that new-project smell has worn off and the end seems too far away, it’s easy to let boredom and discouragement take the wheel. Try creating some mini-goals, or even micro-goals, and make sure you’re rewarding yourself for your incremental progress.
Little Changes Action Step: Have a frank conversation with your inner, wise self about one of your half-done projects, and make a swift decision to either let it go or to schedule time in your calendar so you can get back to work on it.
A team member chose this chapter to share because she actually implemented the first suggestion… and is LOVING IT!
Without further a dieu…
Chapter 6 – 6 Ways to Take Control of Your Time
Time is so slippery, isn’t it? The time spent in line at the bank goes so slowly you can practically feel yourself wrinkling up as you stand there. But the hour you spend on the phone with your best friend whizzes by. And remember the moment when they first put the baby in your arms. Time ceased to exist entirely.
I hear from . . . well, from almost everyone, really, that they have trouble managing their time, so here are a few critical little changes you can make today that will help you stop struggling with the idea that there’s never enough time and start enjoying the time you have.
Get Your Cell Phone out of the Bedroom
The first few moments on waking are an important time of day, especially for the creative, sensitive, and overworked person.
Your reticular activating system is the part of your brain that helps regulate your levels of consciousness and tells you when to wake up. (If you’ve ever wondered how one tiny sound, like the creak of a floorboard, can wake you out of a deep sleep, you can thank your reticular activating system.) Science tells us that your waking-up time is one of your most creative moments in the day, because your brain has spent the night organizing your memories and thoughts, and your body is relaxed, so you are more likely to make unusual connections between ideas, discover new solutions to problems, and have especially entertaining thoughts first thing.
Nothing ruins the cozy mood of a morning like a cell phone.
There is nothing on the internet that cannot wait for twenty minutes while you do some mindful breathing and think grateful thoughts.