A month ago my work started suffering. My writing muse left me. Inspiration was absent whenever I tried to tap it and ideas seemed to disappear before I could retain them on paper or electronic device. A fog set in and wouldn't leave. No thought that entered my brain was complete. The best I could do was get a detailed email out to a client. After that, I was spent.
This was a warning sign that something was wrong. I had been in and out of funks that I attributed to changes in my diet, exercise and other minor lifestyle edits. What I wasn't looking at was my routine and work habits as a whole.
Bullet journaling turned out to be my oracle. I was able to look back on the last month and see if there was a pattern. The first thing I noticed was that my daily lists shifted ever so slightly each day from tasks that were far reaching, elements of projects and my routine, into something more reactive. I saw that the important things were getting pushed to the next day as well as chores and healthy activities. Other things were becoming inserted into my list and were taking up the finite time I had during the day. My schedule had become reactive instead of proactive.
We live in a reactive world. Instead of controlling our lives we leap from notification to notification. We stop for alerts and redirect our attention in their direction. We call ourselves multitaskers when really we are just giving less and less of our attention to a million voices until we are left going through the motions with no thoughts or creativity left to address the demands.
In the last 20 years there has been a shift towards honoring the "busy". If you're not busy you're lazy. If you focus on yourself you're selfish. You must sacrifice every moment to your job, career or passion and be miserable doing it. You "life's work" must consume your life and leave no room for anything else. Every waking moment, devoted to producing, doing, or giving more.
Thank goodness people are finally coming to their senses. No you don't have to be connected all the time. No you don't have to reply to every email immediately or even that same day. You can spend time on yourself. In fact, you have to. The reason people are coming to their senses is because this lifestyle is making them burnout, its ruining their relationships, and in some cases, its killing them.
Being busy is not a badge of honor. Having a ton to do does not equal a ton of respect. We should be honoring those who commit to their cause and to themselves. To the people who look after their well being, just as hard as they look after their families and their jobs. There is a reason in an aircraft emergency, you put on your mask first. If you continue to whittle away at yourself, you will be no good to anyone in the end.
So here I am. Back at the keyboard. My muse is sort of there. I think it's still annoyed at me for taking such poor care of it. But I'm fixing it. I'm making amends. I'm making priority time for it with no outside distractions. I am also nurturing it and myself by making healthy choices with my time so as not to be so exhausted and distracted that I can't create.
I'm back to recommitting to my routines. Notifications and alerts do not get priority anymore. In fact as I write this, airplane mode is on, on my Apple Watch and my phone is in the bedroom. When I sat down to write this I made a commitment to my craft and to you, my reader, to give you my full attention. Email will follow after this, still without my other devices. Then I'll check Slack and my notifications and give 30 minutes to them before I start seeing my clients. I am honoring each communication as it deserves. Each with as much full attention as possible.
While I make this detour back into my routine I will take this time to share with you all what my routine looks like, how it works for me and how you can harness your day for yourself, what's important and also gain some much needed "actual" productivity. What I mean by "actual" is that you will actually produce and not just look and feel busy.
Today I am going to do the following and I recommend you do so too:
- Redesign your routine. Make sure you are not just priming yourself for work. Make sure you are taking care of duties that matter to you and your family. Next week I will share how I balance 2 businesses, 8 dogs, a house, a husband and myself.
- Break for mental focus. Do something that requires little to no thought. Something repetitive is best. Yesterday I trimmed plants in the backyard. Wonderful for cleaning up residual mental load and restarting creativity and inspiration.
- Block out time for each task and make sure to give 3 times as much time to the task as I think it will need. Make sure the time blocked out is committed to that one task. Don't fall into the habit of glancing at your email or you phone while you complete a task. Just a glance leaves your mind distracted for a minimum of 20 minutes.
- Practice! It's totally ok to slip up and have two things going on at once. But realize it and try harder next time. Over the past month I have seen a chronic problem of putting too much on my task lists. I am working on this, but at the same time I am not getting upset about it. Action is the only cure for a problem. And what you can't do today, you will eventually be able to do tomorrow - if you practice!
I look forward to sharing my updated routine with you soon. In the meantime, share with me what interupts you or what you reactively act on instead of sticking to what you should be doing.