It’s only an hour into my flight and 102 pages into ‘Thrive’ by Arrianna Huffington and I’ve decided to change my life. Permanently.
I’m hoping this post might encourage you to do the same.
I’ve been known as the queen of multitasking for far too long. Whether it was out of a misguided sense of duty to ‘do everything’, a constant fear of ‘losing’ something, a innate need to be ‘in control’ or simply trying to juggle more things than any sane person should try or want to. My phone has been like an umbilical cord and email has ruled my life. But what is mindfulness? For me, mindfulness was remembering to pick up my my keys before I left the house!
It’s so easy to justify the reasons why we do the things we do; but what about the consequences? How often have you been at dinner with friends or family and checked your phone more than once and you weren’t waiting for an emergency call? Worse still, how many times have you checked your phone over breakfast or dinner with your family, your kids?
Five years ago, my gorgeous and wonderful partner passed away. He wasn’t just my partner he was also my beautiful son’s Dad – and what an awesome Dad he was. Since that moment, my life has been divided into two phases: pre loss and post loss. They are worlds apart, in fact so much so that I began to think it was impossible to ever bridge the gap.
I became obsessed with occupying my time so I could only focus on the most immediate issue at hand. I didn’t want time to think, so I built a straight jacket of my own making. If my mind wandered, I’d just pull the ties tighter. More responsibilities, more emails, more people, more meetings, more projects, more, more, more …
Of course it was understandable and undoubtedly it served a purpose at the time; it helped me survive.
But now I realise I’ve let it take over, like an invisible demon that needs to be exorcised.
Oh, the irony I hear you say … “Isn’t she the one that wrote the book ‘Stop Talking, Start Doing’?!” Well, yes I am, but before you think this post is about stopping instead of doing, it’s not. It’s about separating the wheat from the chaff, filtering out the noise so you can hear your own voice. It’s about listening. Understanding. Being.
It’s about doing the things that matter, with the people that matter and being present. Wholly present.
How many meetings have you had where you’re talking about one issue, replying to an email about another and still thinking of something else? Too many? Me too.
You can’t give 100% if you don’t give 100%. That means you have to show up 100% wherever you are. In that moment, in that discussion, with that person. Whether it’s closing a deal, having dinner with old friends or reading a bedtime story.
How many times have you woken up in the night and checked your phone? Do you have any idea how much that impacts your sleep? The moment your eyes focus on the LCD screen on your phone, it triggers the brain into thinking it needs to wake up. Then you start contemplating replying to an email and now your brain starts thinking about the best way to answer, but before you know it, it starts thinking about all kinds of other things too. Suddenly 30 minutes or an hour has passed and you wonder why you wake up tired in the morning?
This isn’t just about a ‘Digital Detox’ or a ‘Digital Sundown’ – although I’m a big fan of the later and need the former! This is so much more than that.
My son said to me the other week “Mummy, you’re always busy!” and the hard truth is I am a lot the time. As a single Mum, there’s only me, but I’m fortunate that I truly love what I do. So we came up with a plan. When he really needed me to focus, he would just say “Mummy, I need your attention!” and I would put down what I was doing and give him 100% focus. Unfortunately I’ve tried this the other way around and it doesn’t seem to have the same effect! Instead I get a quizzical look and a raised eyebrow!
How many other people need our attention and focus, at work, at home, in meetings … But they don’t always get it? The world is full of opportunities, but sometimes the best opportunity is to learn to filter out the most important, meaningful ones. All emails, projects and even people are not created equal.
I’m not suggesting we shirk our responsibilities at work to go chanting or feel deprived because we’ve worked a 10 hour day. But once we’ve nailed our responsibilities and delivered results we should be able to go chanting, line dancing or anything else we like. If instead of trying to do everything, we focus on the key areas that are really going to get us results, we shouldn’t have to multitask!
Equally I get frustrated when people don’t reply to emails for a day – especially if you are working together on a time sensitive project. I’m not suggesting you stop replying to emails – just reply to the ones that are most important. To you and to other people. And get results.
For a start take yourself off 90% of the emails you subscribe too – unless these emails give you great joy, make you laugh or teach you something valuable, delete them. Stop clogging up your inbox and your brain with stuff you don’t really want. It’s like junk food – empty calories and never that good for you.
So from here on out, when I go to a meeting, I will be leaving my phone in my bag. When I walk through the front door at home, my phone will go on charge, in silence. No more checking emails whilst helping with homework, or having dinner. If you can’t get me during the day and really need my urgent attention, we must be close, so call me at home. Now, if you really want my attention, email me at 5am, I’ll be up and you’ll have my undivided attention!
I’m going to truly focus on the people I love and doing the work I love. The work I was meant to do. And I’m going to give them 100% of my attention. I’m not shy of hard work, I’m a doer, but now I’m committed to doing the right thing, not just everything.
Less is most definitely more.
PS I think this is such an important message, I’d be really grateful for you to share it with anyone your think needs to hear it.