How full are your days? Is there time in there to simply be? To linger and smell the roses? To wander and watch the sunrise? In our current world of constant connection to messenger, email and social media it’s vital to pause. I wonder if your experience is like mine, that unless I schedule time to ponder, explore, write and think it’s very easy for the time from 5:30am to 8pm to fly by in a flurry of doing, meeting deadlines, attending to ‘business’, at home or at work, until weariness forces a pause.
Not only do I need to schedule this precious time, I also need the self-discipline to avoid distractions hijacking the time.
I like what Greg McKeown in his excellent book “Essentialism’ writes about this. Chapter 5 is titled “Escape” and starts with a quote from Pablo Picasso, “Without great solitude no serious work is possible”. Greg shares that in order to write his book he committed 8 hours a day, (5am to 1pm), 5 days a week. His rule was no email, no calls, no appointments, and no interruptions until after 1pm.
I haven’t tried such an extreme measure to write (as you may have noticed), however I do know that when I schedule time to think and write, AND stick to it, I’m considerably more productive and at the end of the day feel happier because of what I’ve accomplished.
To the contrary, on a day when I’ve rushed all day, from one task to the other, I’m dissatisfied that I haven’t taken the time to pause, to think.
If, like me, you find it uncomfortable to just sit, try either a walk in nature, or journaling. When my mind is overstimulated these two activities help to calm, to focus.
This “time out” is not just beneficial in the short term, it can allow us to see our routine differently. It can spark the desire to change our habits. I’ve mentioned Bronnie Ware’s book “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” here before. Can we choose to live intentionally without facing death? I think we can, again, it requires scheduling time.
This leads us to contemplate our “full plate”, once we’re aware we can choose to disengage from some activities which for many of us is not an easy process.
Marie Kondo is an essentialist through and through. This famous Japanese queen of tidy says, “It’s about choosing joy”. She teaches that one of the questions to ask when we’re decluttering our closet is “Does it spark joy?”. Marie writes “When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. When you hold something that doesn’t bring you joy, however, you will notice that your body feels heavier” Like Greg, Marie’s perspective is to focus on choosing what you want to keep, rather than fixating on what you are discarding or saying no to.
I like the idea of ‘holding’ your commitments up to the light of “does it bring me joy”.
If you consider a particular commitment in your mind and a smile immediately lights up your face, that’s something to keep. On the other hand, if you bring a commitment to mind and your heart immediately feels heavy, seriously consider letting it go!
Now, I know this is easier said than done, as Greg says “it takes courage to eliminate”. Today I encourage you to schedule 30 minutes to think, write or walk. Go on, you’ve got this.
P.S. I’d love you to leave a comment here. Was this helpful? Or not? What rituals or habits do you use to regain focus and productivity?