“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon
Busy. Defined as having a great deal to do, I referenced it in a previous blog post to remind readers that “busy” protects us; it enables us to hide from our authentic selves.
This summer brings further reflection of that message. My three teenagers and I are engaging in what we’ve fondly termed “our summer busy-detox”. It’s the result of reaching a near breaking point last May as the school year drew to a close. Year-end performances, tryouts for the following school year and final exams packed my children’s calendars. Supporting their efforts was essential yet exhausting.
As I observed them existing in zombie-like states, I grew increasingly curious about the opportunity to make different choices so we could transition from merely existing in life to mindfully living. I also contemplated how sharing this thinking and my family’s experiences could benefit clients and their workplaces.
Making more conscious choices
Our “busy-detox” encourages us to make more conscious choices and is applicable personally + professionally. My intention in sharing the following ways we’re ‘being’ and ‘doing’ is to provoke thought about what you can implement.
Slowing down is empowering us to:
- Do what’s most meaningful + valuable first.
- Have more face.to.face conversations.
- Ask more questions.
- Learn how to say, “No.”
- Carve out time to ‘be’.
- Make more strategic choices to avoid over committing.
- Create margins between actions so we can move at a slower pace.
While this didn’t make me the most popular mom and there was plenty of dialogue about the ‘why’ behind such actions, it wasn’t long before the shift in choices reaped benefits:
- Our home environment feels lighter.
- We interact more with one another.
- We show up more mindfully.
- We rush less.
You can imagine how excited I was to receive an article in my space in mid-July thanks to an electronic subscription to Fast Company magazine.
Summer schedule as a blueprint
The headline referenced a “summer schedule as a blueprint for life” and motivated me to read it immediately. I felt both validated + refreshed as I realized someone else, especially a writer for the world’s leading progressive business magazine, identified with the need for a slower pace and space to reflect.
In summary, the article captures insights from Hillary Rettig, productivity coach and author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific, about how in nearly every industry, summer brings a slower work pace as we embody a sense of spaciousness where we think, reflect, plan + experience. Readers are encouraged to think about the impact of keeping the relaxed summer schedule beyond that timeframe.
I understand that concept may overwhelm you or seem impossible – it did to the clients I emailed the article to. In fact, one of my favorite responses arrived very simply stated, “I don’t think I’m wired to do this all year.”
While I empathize with that response, I encourage you to recognize, even celebrate, that it all boils down to choices. And what better time to reflect on choices than slower-paced summer days that provide extra daylight hours (at least in Iowa where I live). Summer often contrasts with the rest of the year, where we’re scrambling to get things done. Why not take one step? Make the choice to think about what’s going on around you, the speed of business and whether or not it’s necessary.
According to Rettig, “We are reinforcing each other to speed the heck up. We’re living in a deadline-driven world. Deadlines are useful productive tools, but constantly being under deadline creates stress, and people shut down as a result.”
In the rush to get things done, we race against the clock. We live in a state of resistance which produces a state of consciousness that often comes about when we’re feeling anxious. We miss the opportunity to show up in the present moment itself. As a result, we experience a feeling of lack – a lack of what we most need (time, permission, space, etc.). It’s not possible for humans to rush and be present simultaneously.
As I reflect on my family’s facial expressions + glossed over eyes as the school year drew to a close, I’m more conscious of the contradiction between being present and rushing. Doing as much as possible to be productive comes at a cost. When we’re not in the present moment, life quickly goes hyper-abstract.
3 recommendations for summer slow down
To experience life at a more acceptable pace and be empowered to live (rather than exist) in the life you want, consider three summer-time tips:
1. Observe Your Behavior: Feelings and emotions are information. How can you use the feelings and emotions that are showing up to guide you toward a path that feels natural? People feel better doing authentic work that aligns with what they want to be doing. Make time to slow down enough to create awareness about what’s going on within.
2. Create a Summertime Budget: What things would you like to do that are important but not urgent (think: The 7 Habits of High Effectively People by Stephen Covey). It’s the quadrant two stuff, which is what promotes growth. You don’t grow when you’re busy doing. Create a smaller to-do list that allows you to give things more time than usual.
3. Carry it Forward: The information collected during summer can be provide insight that impacts behaviors and habits past Labor Day. While it can sometimes be difficult to form new habits, you can be more mindful about watching and managing how you spend your time. Say “no” to the things you don’t want to be doing. Think about what your authentic self wants to doing and make it happen.
As we draw closer to fall, think about how you can maintain a mindset of moving at a slower pace. Expect social pressure that tries to tell you excessive business speed is a virtue. It’s not. Remaining cognizant of that will help you avoid getting swept back into a frenzied pace.
What actions would help you experience life rather than spectate your way through it? What does life look like when it’s not so abstract + you live from first person?