When you are in a hurry, dress slowly.
— French Proverb
“How many of you feel as if you’re lives are way too busy?”
“How many of you fall into bed at night feeling frustrated that you didn’t accomplish anywhere near what you set out to accomplish in the day?”
Nearly all the hands go up in the audiences I speak to when I ask these questions.
Studies show that 50% of folks feel burned out by the end of their work week.
You see, the problem is that we’re overworked, underpaid, spread too thin; stretched in a hundred different directions; pummeled by demands from every quadrant of our lives.
We are constantly responding to the urgent. Never getting to the important.
We try to do so much that nothing really gets done.
Many days it feels as if we are fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun.
That doesn’t happen when you’re walking up hill through waist deep snow.
Walking up hill through waist deep snow is hard. It requires focus and attention. You can’t be doing your makeup with one hand while balancing a cup of coffee with the other. You can’t be futzing on your iPhone. You can’t be updating your status. You can’t respond to emails or voicemails. You can’t Skype. You can’t tweet. God, you can barely talk.
It’s one step in front of the other. That’s all there is. That’s all that’s possible.
Tell the truth now: Do you check Facebook while sitting in a meeting? Do you read your email on your iPhone while watching TV? Do you talk on your phone while grocery shopping? Do you watch TV while you make dinner and mediate a fight with your kids while your spouse tries to tell you about her day? Do you text while you drive (perhaps even just once)?
Me, I’ll assert my Fifth Amendments rights.
But I’m betting that there are some days that you feel so overwhelmed by all that you try to accomplish (all at the same time) that you just want to scream.
Here’s the rub: We think that multi-tasking increases our productivity, makes us more efficient. That’s what society tells us will work. It doesn’t. What’s true is that dividing our attention actually decreases our productivity by as much as 25%. When we try to accomplish everything at once, we actually accomplish less. And we do burn ourselves out.
Here are some tips:
1. Set aside some morning meditation time to get clear about your intentions for the day.
2. Decide each day on what’s truly important… to you. Do that first, to the exclusion of everything else.
3. Do just one thing at a a time, giving it your full focus and attention. Use “block time;” blocks of time devoted to returning calls and emails; blocks for your creative life; blocks devoted for your family and friends.
4. Don’t access your email first thing in the morning; your in-box contains only other people’s agendas.
5. Say “no;” yes, I said “no;” I know it’s not fashionable to say no, but remember what Gandhi said: “A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
If these ideas don’t work, try walking uphill through waist deep snow.