"We need to change the way we communicate." I hear this desire almost daily. This calls for what we call conscious communication: an integration of innerwork (mindfulness, presence, attention, empathy) and outerwork (reframing how we express ourselves).
Busy as a Badge of Honour
There are moments when I imagine I can stop time. You know, just put the world on hold. I get a bunch of stuff done. To-do list—BAM! Sleep—BAM! Exercise—BOOM! Cook a great meal—BAM! Then in my beautiful zen way, I snap my fingers and restart the world right where I left it…looking fine and feeling fantastic. While others run to catch up, I take a satisfied, serene walk through my work day. Then I wake up :)
I am starting to have more and more days that used to be just a dream. Days where I’m not chasing time and everything feels in flow, as though I have stopped time. But it wasn’t always like that. I used to be “busy addicted”...
It used to be that my partner and I took the true love for our work and for our babies as “good” reasons for working our asses off. Our evening routine went something like this:
- Cook and eat a great meal together
- Work out
- Quick call to a family member
- Clean up
- Wash kids, get them ready for bed, read a book
- Cuddle with kids and pass out, unintentionally, in a sleep coma
- At 9 pm get startled out of sleep and run phone coaching appointments
- Up working until 1:30 am
- Up throughout the night with the kids
- Body’s internal alarm clock waking us at 6 am
If you asked me how I was during that time, I would say “busy” wearing this new name as a badge of honour.
Time Manages Us and Not the Other Way Around
But here’s where our to-do lists had a tendency to break down: In those few hours before I fell asleep with the kids, I juggled and struggled with my inner-critic. “What do I skip: the workout or the cuddle or both?” After all, I knew I was exhausted and emotionally drained. Sometimes I felt guilty and beat myself up over how I should be using that time to just relax and be present.
We have all experienced days with a similar look and feel. We have a list of to-do’s and to-be’s, but the engine still miraculously runs. When we are emotionally conflicted, anxiety takes over, and it is this anxiety that contributes to feeling overwhelmed and out of time.
If we employ a discovery process wherein we look for where we have choice and what is actually manageable, we realize that time itself is NOT manageable!
The truth about time is as follows:
- Time manages us and not the other way around
- Time is indifferent to our needs or agendas
- Time passes as it would whether there is chaos, joy, productivity or lack thereof
- Time as it relates to our human activities is influenced by the moon and the sun and other known and unknown elements far beyond our reach and control
The Solution: Pay Attention
I remember a time when my partner and I were booked to speak to thousands, and we were meeting with our own coach for a 2-day planning and practice session to prepare. Everything was planned to the minute. However, my “always-on” and “running-on-empty” reality had caught up with me and I was starting to get sick. I couldn’t think. I didn’t want to talk or eat. I just wanted to rest.
But, I couldn’t rest. We had just driven 1.5 hours for this coaching, and I couldn’t afford to be sick. I was frustrated and exhausted, committed and conflicted. My body wouldn’t let me off the hook. I was begging for more: time, sleep, and health. I needed more time, but I also needed to have an impact. I was getting sick, but it ended up being such a gift. The present I was looking for was wrapped in a box I least expected. Since then, I have stopped trying to get back at the moon and the sun for not adding more hours to the day and I now focus on managing my energy.
I am fascinated by the idea of getting more done in less linear time.
How can you get more time?
You can’t create more hours in the day, but you can integrate conscious communication practices into your life in a way that changes the speed and nature of your thoughts, so that you become more present, more productive and more creative. To do this, you must re-focus your attention away from anxiety, stress, and overwhelming ways of thinking and living.
Why does it work?
It works, because the danger lies in not paying attention. Failing to pay attention directly leads to the experience that ‘time flies‘ or ‘I don’t know where the time has gone.’ If you don’t pay attention, you let others decide how they can use your time, which can sometimes leave us thinking that we are a little short-changed.