My Aikido lead instructor, Shihan Beckham, always begins class with words of wisdom. They are applicable to each practice and they are applicable to life outside the dojo. The word for last night was “adagio”. We did an hour and forty-five minutes of one class adagio. We slowed everything down to be certain we were getting the basics correct. As Mr. Beckham was explaining our approach to the class, I thought how ironic, but precisely true, that sometimes we need to slow down to catch up.
I like that scene in the Matrix where NEO suddenly realizes he can see everything in slow motion. It changes everything. His life moves instantly from the effect end to the cause end. In slow motion, he sees everything coming and blocks the nonsense away almost with a yawn. He then moves from the receiving end of blows to the giving end and his strikes are much more precise and effective. When we are not intentional, we tend to be more like the pre-slow-motion NEO. Confused, hapless and taking a lot more blows than we are giving. We run behind and get overwhelmed. It is easy to feel like life is something happening TO US when we move too fast. What we fail to grasp is that we are predominately creating this dynamic by lack of thinking INTO our actions.
Here are some simple ways we can slow things down and build margins in our day to stay caught up. (Before I begin, let me say parenthetically that I do recognize that there are periods of our life where much of our time IS dictated by someone else’s demands or needs. If you suspect you are in one of those periods, keep reading, there is value here for you.)
10 (11) Ways to Slow Down to Catch Up
1. Put God First. Try asking God for help with the important basics. Meditative prayer naturally and supernaturally puts you in an intentional state of mind. It causes you to think differently than your “on-the-go” default. Then your “on-the-go” prayers become reminders to stay on track. Have you ever thought about prayer being mostly about reminding yourself what is important? I am not saying God is inactive. I am saying it is possible that prayers are asking God to do something but also lining ourselves up with what we already think he wants.
- Prioritize Your Life. Understanding your life purpose is important. All too often we are busy being busy and we lose our focus on why we do certain activities. Not all activity is of equal value. We have to continually check ourselves to be sure we are keeping the main thing the main thing. If our desires don’t match what we know our priorities ought to be, we can drift into doing mostly what we want and lose the time we should have spent on other priorities. This is where the spiral begins that makes us feel like we are chasing life to get caught up.
- Get Rid of Clutter.Your car, your kitchen, your living room, your bedroom, your inbox, your office/desk, your mind. Any clutter there? Are you sure? I have met a few people who do operate at high levels with clutter, but my experience has been that most of the people I have met (including myself too often) who coexist with clutter, are behind. I am not talking about intelligence or potential. I am talking about effectiveness.
- Stop Unnecessary Time Wasters. We live in a world that begs our brains to be overly entertained and our own biology (hormones) works against us when it comes to “vegging” out and compulsively wasting time with electronic devices and social media. We all know better. We just need to do tangible steps to do better. What can you do to minimize time-wasting distractions that get your behind?
- Drive Smarter. Do you commute? Find something that contributes to your personal development during your daily commute. HINT: You are not likely to find it on the radio.
- Schedule Margins. Sometimes we forget that we are at the helm of our calendars. Even if a large portion of our schedule is fixed by forces outside of our control, we can look for spaces to create buffers.
- Do the Most Necessary Work First. I don’t know about you, but I am extremely geared towards task completion. It serves me well much of the time but my challenge is to stop working on a certain project, let it wait, and get going on the thing that keeps the lights on in my house.
- Don’t Say Yes to Everything. Someone is reading this and shaking their head. Your time is your life. YES! You can say, “NO!” and the Earth will stay in its orbit.
- Schedule Down Time. I have a confession to make. I take a power nap almost every afternoon. It happens after I pick up my youngest son from school. We drive to a parking area and wait for my older son to get out of school. I have often wondered if other parents in the same parking area look over and think,“What a loser!”I would be okay with that because what they don’t know is that I am up at 4am every morning (3am today) working. I have intentionally structured my days to maximize my time with my boys and I have zero guilt that 15-20 minutes of that time is me snoring in the car seat next to my son. That time is paid for and contributes to my overall health.
- Evaluate Your Schedule Often. Plans should not be implemented and then ignored. Calibrate often to stay aware of your goals.
#11 BONUS: Take 1:50 minutes and watch THIS VIDEO. It will leave you feeling groovy, especially watching Art Garfunkle’s face.
One of the primary benefits of the Life Leaders GPS is the opportunity it offers to push the pause button on life and be sure the life you are living is the one you want, the one you really want. There is one lesson in particular designed to help you master today’s topic – Take Your Brain Back. This message skips the rock across the top of that pond. We are co-creating our lives every day. Let’s make the most of it.