While we’re at it, why don’t we also…? Before I leave for the next meeting, let me do just one more thing. I’ll skip the gym/art class/music performance/time with family and friends because I need to get these next three things done. Sure, I can do that too, it won’t take that long. I can’t say no at work, they are counting on me. There’s just so much to do, if I stay late I can make some headway.
Do you recognize yourself, your colleagues, your organization’s culture in these phrases? Do you, like so many people feel crunched for time? Do you take that time from sleep, exercise, healthy eating, time with friends and family? There is usually more to-do list than time, with the next project, meeting, or task beckoning, perhaps even mocking you.
The crunch is a choice. You may blame your boss, the current state of affairs, the political opposition, but the choice about how to handle it is yours.
What will happen if you do less? Let that question sink in. What are the real consequences if you say no to one last thing before you get to a meeting? You might get to the meeting on time, mentally and emotionally prepared. What if you decided to do 10, 20, even 30 percent less? Why would you? What would you do with that “extra” time? Who would you be if you weren’t so busy? Who would do what you do? Who could? Do you see yourself as indispensable? Are you afraid someone else might do the work differently, worse, or perhaps better? And what would that mean?
In most endeavors, space is an essential ingredient. Miles Davis famously said, “music is the space between the notes.” A garden with too much in it is just overgrown. People whose collections have no space are called hoarders. But people who work too much are called–leaders? good workers? team players? Are they more productive or just busier? A good 15 minutes of focused attention can be worth more than two dissipated hours.
As I work with this sense of space for myself and with my clients, I see several benefits:
- People appreciate the completion of the task at hand
- They get to the heart of a matter faster
- They identify more robust solutions because they examined multiple angles
- There are more smiles and inquiries, fewer short fuses, misunderstandings and explosions
- Items that seem separate get addressed by seeing the patterns that connect them
- People have more energy and optimism
- They get more done
What could you do to get these results for yourself?
- Decide to do one small thing to feed yourself–go to a museum? a musical event? cook at home?
- Create a time that is just for you. 10, 15, 30 minutes a day. Walk an extra block to work?
- Look at your week plan and take out two things.
See what emerges in the space you create.