Slow Down – How to be calm even when you’re busy.
How do you maintain calm, even when you’re busy?
It was midweek and I hopped onto a call with my Supervisor, unprepared and with a tinge of guilt that I had no idea what I was going to bring to our session, I instantly found myself apologising.
“Sorry Elaine, I know I should have something to bring but I’ve been thinking about this all morning and I just don’t know what I want to work on” (slightly true – I’d been busy project planning and the thought “shit, you have your supervision call later this morning” kept entering my thoughts).
I need not have worried. Elaine is like a superhuman that knows just what to do.
“Ok, that feels relevant, shall we start there?”
Yes. The relief. It is relevant. I can’t think straight.
2 minutes later and she’s guided me through a short meditation and I’m back.
Ideas for what to bring to my session come flooding in, I pick one and we have a great session.
So, what was going on?
I’d fallen into that trap of being too busy.
Here’s what that looks like.
Internal mantra – “I’m so busy, I’ve got so much to do, I don’t have time for that”
External behaviour – switching off from friends and family, working late into the evening, short, sharp conversations, working hard, but not necessarily being productive. Switching between tasks as I juggle the priorities. Working to a level of detail that isn’t really required but feels important at the time.
Impact – Feeling stressed and like I have no time. Self doubt that I’m under achieving in all areas of life
For me, this went on for about 48 hours, for some people it’s been going on for months, even years.
So how come I was able to snap out of it?
Firstly, I have regular supervision. Supervision is sort of coaching for coaches. A place to bring ‘stuff’ that you need to unpack, reflect upon and learn from. For me, it’s an essential part of being a good coach. I can only do my best work if I’m in the right head space for coaching. You don’t have to be a supervisor to have this. I offer this to leaders and executives as a space to learn, grow and ‘mentally detox’ (if you’re interested, just pm me, rates are £200 per session)
Secondly, I’d just come out of 4 weeks of coaching with my business partner Jo and our coach Vanessa so I’d been doing a lot of reflecting, had space to think about what was important to me and what I needed both now and in the future.
Thirdly, as a coach I’m surrounded by people who have the skills and resources to challenge me and support me just as I need to be supported. I’ve had my head in self development books for the past decade and spend my free time listening to masterclasses, podcasts, watching talks on you tube and consuming as much positive psychology as I can. I’m a mindset junkie/nerd.
It’s unlikely that you have a coach, a supervisor and a network of coaches to draw upon when you feel lost, I know it’s somewhat unusual.
So as a non-coach, how do you work your way out of the fog and find some peace and clarity again?
1. Are you frantic?
Pay attention to your energy. Are you frantically zipping from one thing to another? Does everything feel important? Are you constantly in demand and feeling the pressure of everyone needing you?
When you’re frantic you’re not thinking straight. I know it feels like this is how you HAVE to be, and that you CAN’T do it any other way but that’s just your mindset limiting your thinking.
You can be busy and yet still be calm. At least in your mind.
A clear mind is critical for making good decisions and helpful choices. Under pressure you’re going to be muddled, your mindset is closed and you’ll default to habits and patterns of thinking that are likely to be counterproductive.
What do you need when you are at your most frantic?
Space and time to think and breathe.
And we’re talking micro moments here.
- A short lunch break
- Coffee and a short walk outside the office walls
- A hug
- Re-connecting on a call with a close friend
- A burst of exercise
Insert micro moments into your frantic weeks and it will begin to shift your energy and change that mantra. You DO have time. Don’t fool yourself otherwise. Go slow to go fast.
Are you feeling unappreciated?
You’re slogging your guts out and no one cares. At least that’s how it feels.
It’s not true.
Many people care.
They’re just busy slogging their guts out thinking that no one cares.
We live and work in a busy world. Most of us have our heads down focused on what we need to do to get through the days and weeks ahead. We’re thinking about how we’re going to juggle our conflicting priorities and continue to elevate our success.
We’re not thinking about you. Instead, we’re being selfish and if we’re honest with each other, we expect people to just notice. After all, they should right?
Hard news: People don’t notice if you don’t tell them.
Here’s a simple example
You spend all day sorting out your home office. Throughout the day you clear out years of paperwork you no longer need to keep. You have bin bags full of ‘stuff’ so you decide to shred it because it’s sensitive data. The shredder jams, consistently, it takes you ages. You re-organise your filing cabinet and relabel old folders and everything now has a place. Your cupboards are now clear so you can finally tidy your desk. Dusting, cleaning, vacuuming all done. You’ve even pulled out the cupboards and cleaned behind them. As you’ve been going through your files you’ve sorted your tax return paperwork and accounts. It’s taken you 8 hours. You haven’t stopped. It was long overdue.
Your colleague/partner walks by. Oooh that looks tidy, nice work.
Inside you’re thinking………“that looks tidy, is that all I get. I’ve spent 8 hours clearing this place up and all you can do is comment that it looks tidy, I don’t know why I bother’.
They didn’t watch you for 8 hours. Nor did they see the shredder break time and time again. They don’t know what was in your cupboards. The bin bags have all been thrown away so there’s not evidence of what you had to go through to get the result you did.
If you don’t share with people the effort you put in and instead let people judge you solely on outputs you’re going to be left feeling empty and unappreciated. Fact.
Share the journey, the messy unanswered questions, the imperfect progress. It is here that you need the recognition and appreciation. By the time you get the result you’ve done the hard part.
3. Channel your inner Buddha
I am not a meditating kind of girl. You won’t find me sat cross legged on a yoga mat ‘omming’ my way to peace and serenity.
That’s not the only kind of meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness is becoming more and more recognised as a tool for the busy businessperson. It comes in many forms. Here’s a few you may not have used.
- Deep breathing
- Noticing what is going on in your body
- Listening intently to the sounds around you
- Paying crystal clear attention to all your senses
- Being guided through a visualisation
- Being silent
- Sitting still
- Watching the world go by through a coffee shop window
- Practising gratitude and appreciation.
Many of the above can be done with no yoga mat in sight.
What else is not there
- Mobile phone
- The news
- To do lists
Find a mindfulness practice or meditation that works for you and give yourself 2-5 minutes a day to just ‘be’. This is self care at it’s simplest when you’re at your busiest. If you’re interested in mindfulness and meditation I’d encourage you to start by looking up the popular app Headspace
4. Have fun
Please don’t forget to have fun. Why work hard if you can’t play hard?
Go back to your WHY. Why do you do what you do?
I guarantee it’s not so you can be busy.
Maybe your WHY is for your family? Your family don’t want or need an exhausted, burnt out, grumpy loved one.
Inject fun. And if you don’t have the energy for fun then inject downtime.
Why fun? Because it’s through fun that we connect and laugh. We remember the simple things in life. It helps us to gain perspective and re-evaluate what’s important to us and what we need.
Share what’s going on for you and re-discover that people care and want to help and listen.
So in summary – just slow it all down. You’ll still get just as much done.
If you enjoyed this blog please check out some of my other posts. Here’s a popular one about overcoming self doubt
The Leaders Guide to Finding Passion and Purpose in your work