Blogging recently about Mindfulness has made me looking more carefully at my own process, the unsaid challenge I had set myself, how ‘in the moment’ am I? Well, the last few weeks have certainly given me ample opportunity to test myself. I have a busy life, mostly because I like it that way – I don’t feel like I do sometimes, and yet I am the architect in charge so must take responsibility for its design.
What is more tricky is those unexpected challenges; the spikes which overlay the normal run of things; being eight months into a building project involving our home being reconstructed while we are in it, my partner unexpectedly having to be away all week, for several weeks and then there was my parent’s elderly dog who was clearly struggling and at the end of her life. I felt I needed to step in and call time – it had become clear no one else could, or would, take her to be ‘put down’. My Mother is an Alzheimer’s sufferer; at the vet’s she hung on (literally) to her little canine companion, not wanting to release her to the inevitable. Eventually after fifteen very long minutes, she somehow dug deep and releasing the dog she was cuddling tightly to her chest said, “I know I have to be grown up and let her go”. It was heart breaking to witness.
I share this with you, not because I want to burden you with my life, but rather to pay homage to those of you feeling like an overstretched elastic band; possibly being pulled beyond your natural elasticity, out of shape and about to snap?
Behaving mindfully is certainly an effective way to still the mind and stop yourself feeling overwhelmed and being focused on one task at a time has other benefits too. In today’s technologically bamboozling world electronic messages of all kinds nestle in our palms, pockets and hand-bags waiting for response. This makes it tempting to multi task just that bit too much.
Having been asked by Faye Bran @rubyslippersdxb if I would like to do an interview about expat book promotion, it felt difficult to fit in, given what I had on and yet I wanted to get it done particularly as she is conducting interesting research. It so happens that you can’t really write and multi task (or at least I can’t) so I had to put aside 1 – 2 hours in which to do it. What I noticed, having completed the interview draft was a sense of satisfaction and achievement, a rare feeling of late.
Feeling buoyed by a sense of achievement, made me reflect on how exhausted I had become trying to do too much at the same time. Allowing myself to be constantly interrupted by incoming texts, phone calls, emails, Twitter or the men working on my house is energy sapping. I’ve been struggling to maintain good boundaries, concentrate and finish what I set out to do.
The analogy of the headless chicken, although not very pretty, is apt. Doing, doing, doing and lacking either focus or direction is neither satisfying nor productive. Allowing yourself a sufficient space to finish tasks is far more effective, I guess we’ve known this for a long while, but given the march of technology the challenge facing us is greater than ever.
Many of us enjoy our enhanced technology and would not want to be without it, some teenagers I know believe they couldn’t live without it … To be aware of the temptation to check-in too often is important, the habit becomes addictive and an excuse to avoid what needs doing. Unfortunately, avoiding just leaves us more stressed – something that will not be lost on the many young people studying at this time of year, as they prepare for important exams.
When I ask my children to put away their phones whilst eating dinner, it leaves their brains free to enjoy their food and the company of their siblings (the latter not guaranteed). Making sure that we grownups are not checking our pc’s, tablets and phones or trying to read a report whilst watching TV is also a good habit that I am still working on. It’s not wrong to do those things individually, just less effective and more stressful if you do them at the same time, not to mention inconsiderate of those trying to share the TV program with you.
CONSIDER THESE BEHAVIOURS:
- First things first; get on with the most important job of the day when the urge to do so is high – usually first thing in the morning.
- Do so without interruption.
- Think short, medium and long term; set aside time to think about strategic activities rather than always doing what is most urgent.
- Schedule time off for breaks during the day, have lunchtime and enjoy your food.
- Avoid checking emails before turning off your device at night; it can lead to burnout before bedtime and disturbed sleep.
- Research shows that taking regular holidays, even adding a couple of days to your weekend every few months, will make you more productive in the long run.
Lastly, I had thought it was the end of an era for my parents with the demise of their little pooch, but God and the universe move in mysterious ways; four days later, I bumped into an old friend and neighbour, he was looking worried and explained his mother-in-law was suddenly having to go into nursing care and adding to their concerns she had an elderly cat who needed re homing. Molly the cat was installed with my parents the next day and for the time being at least, they have a little pet to enjoy, an experience they have shared for over sixty years.
Video: 10 Powerful Ways To Stay Focused On Your Wok Without Getting Sidetracked (Performance Management) by Chris Diamond
Book: Be Excellent at Anything: Four Changes to Get More Out of Work and Life by Tony Schwartz, Catherine McCarthy and Jean Gomes (4 Aug 2011)