“I learned … that inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness.” -Brenda Ueland
Many of us don’t know HOW to take breaks, and some of us, have a compulsion to avoid breaks all together. This is a sign that something is off — our relationship to using time to “do” is actually unhealthy. Here are some ways we can “fill” our time that are out of alignment with our well-being:
- Shoulds– a compelling sense of obligation to someone or something outside ourselves, often motivated by fear rather than genuine need or desire.
- Time sink holes – draining situations and commitments that don’t nourish or reward us.
- Over commitment – not being able to say “No”, or deriving self-worth and definition by how much one can do.
- Distractions – time spent motivated by avoidance of what’s important.
- Preoccupations, Obsessions or Active Resentment – planning retaliation, complaining, gossiping.
- Non-Selectivity – wanting everything, now. Refusing to prioritize.
- Pushing the Edge/One More-Thing-Itis: – and getting a high off how much can be squeezed into a day and beating the clock: almost missing deadlines, important appointments, obligations to children, etc.
These behaviors can come from a poor sense of self-esteem and a need to prove oneself through accomplishment, or paradoxically, by sabotaging accomplishment.
Like may issues of esteem and worthiness, a spiritual approach can be an effective remedy.
Here are a few ways to cultivate a healing relationship to time:
- Set aside a half hour a day (use a timer) for spiritual reflection – meditation, a walk in nature, reading spiritual literature, journaling.
- Put yourself first in your day – Start your day by asking: “What do I absolutely need today to enjoy a peaceful, joyous time? What’s my self-care bottom-line? To whom and how do I effectively communicate my needs to today? What support do I have to stay on track? – Then make sure you take action on your answers.
- One-in/One-out rule for commitments – make it a standard, for every new commitment you take on, you must complete or let go of a current one of equal scope and time commitment first.
- Practice a pause before saying “Yes”. – When asked to do something you’re not sure you want to do – Say, “I’d love to think about this. Let me do that tonight, an I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
- Make a list of lovely ways you’d like to take a break – I.e., putting on headphones and dancing around the room, making a cup of tea, walking in a nearby park, etc. Then, wen you find yourself in unhealthy distraction territory, allow yourself to take a legitimate break doing something that’s truly restorative.
- Get enough sleep, nutrition, exercise and water – self care is SO important for our brains to make good decisions and our ability to focus – suss out if any of these could be the root of your non productivity.
- Work with a professional organizer to help set up structures for your time, get accountability and ongoing support.
- For negative thoughts, obsessions, and resentments, or any other compulsive, destructive time-filling – consider the support of a therapist or Clutters Anonymous, Underearners Anonymous or Workaholics Anonymous. Many people have found they get tremendous support in changing these patterns with the support of a group.
Harold Taylor, renowned time management authority, has this to say…..
“I have always recommended that people schedule more time than they think a task will take to allow for unavoidable interruptions. But you could feel stressed and out of control if you still don’t get the task completed. To prevent this, change your mindset. Schedule time to work on a task rather than the task itself. The expectation then becomes to spend one hour or 90 minutes each day (or week) until the task is finished. This way you can’t fail. But it’s important to schedule these chunks of time as far as possible in advance of the deadline.” – Harold Taylor
Love this picture by Danny Ghitis of the NY Times. Tamara Mellon’s ample, luxurious desktop at home in the UES, NYC.
Do you have the work space worthy of who you are and what you do in the world?