January 24, 2017
This week had a very clear question from my clients: “How can I have better time management?”
I wondered if this theme pops up now, mid January, because the “resolutions” we set have not held, we have gone through the post-holiday blues, and we are back to focusing on our day to day lives…
As I sat and listened to my clients describe their productivity-issues, I “felt into” their lives to gather more data about the problem… What you may not know about me yet is, that I use my empathy and intuition quite heavily in my therapy sessions. I allow my intuitive sense and my gut feelings guide me to better understand my client’s life as well as to help guide me in my responses… I am always asking myself, “What does this feel like? What is happening for this person? What does this client need most right now?” I ask, and then I trust. I trust that whatever pops into my head is, indeed, what is called for in each situation. As I felt into the issue, the thing came up was: “There is too much going on, they are being inundated.” As I felt it more, I sensed chaotic energy around each situation, which felt like an overwhelming amount of information being hurled at each client.
Ok, got it. I know what the intervention is. We have got move from multitasking to uni-tasking.
When I presented the idea that there was too much multitasking, I realized “multitasking” needed to be defined more clearly. The image my clients had of what it meant to multitask was something like- talking on the phone while eating a sandwich while typing an email. Yes, doing three things at once is an example of multitasking, however what I really meant was “flitting.” Flitting was the word I came up with this week to describe doing one thing a few moments, then flitting off to something else, then flitting back to the original thing, and so on. Flitting can also happen in your mind. Your mind starts focused on your task, then your mind flits to another idea or topic or thought. In meditation, they would call this the “monkey mind.” Flitting doesn’t work for many people as it leads to feeling overwhelmed and burdened. Flitting is a main contributor to burn out, exhaustion, and lack of productivity, in my humble opinion.
So how to overcome flitting?
Here is what I came up with:
First, minimize the technologies! I have taken my own advice from the blog post entitled Not Enough Time!, and have implemented TV free Sundays from 4pm on. My husband and I agree that we can use the computer or even play with our phones, but we do it by the fire or by an array of candles or other ambient surrounding. What I have noticed is, I LOVE this time of the week. I look forward to it, I plan what things I want to do and have found myself actually reading books, something that is hard for me to do since I spend so much of my work life sitting!
TV free evening time has been amazing. And I love it so much, I have started leaving the TV off at other times, finding more peace. I am honest when I say I am a TV addict. Not just TV, junk TV. The last thing I want to do after a day of work, is think! Junk TV fits the bill. Some are surprised to find out that I am not reading therapy and self-help books on end.. and I am most certainly not coming home to meditate and sit peacefully and self-reflect! I am just as human as anyone else.. I am a junk TV junkie.
I can say, now with doing my new TV free Sundays evenings, I realize just how much TV I am not actually interested in. Taking TV away on just one night a week has brought more mindfulness to the TV I do watch. I now have the mindfulness to ask myself, “Am I really watching this?” And if not, now I am motivated to go do something else that feels more satisfying and peaceful, not to mention, I have found that taking away technology distractions actually allows me to write my blog in one fail swoop. No more need for 15 revisions and hours and hours of flitting back and forth to it. Whoah! When I sit down to write my blog, I am writing my blog, and that’s it. I am focused. The more focused I am, the more easily the words come, the greater the flow in writing, the faster it all comes out, and the faster I finish it and move on.
Some clients have objected the idea of doing things in silence- as in 100% technology free. Some asked if I thought they could still be productive with music on. My feeling is that music without words works well, music with words and lyrics is too much information. But, you should always try it out for yourself to see! Does music with words create a different impact on your work then music without words? Maybe it depends on the activity you are trying to accomplish. Reading, writing, problem solving to me would seem need to have music without words, while cleaning the house or organizing could involve music with words.
I have found one interesting things happens when I shut down the flitting, particularly when I open a book to focus on reading. As soon as I open the book, I think of something else I wanted to do- sometimes an inspiration, sometimes an idea, or sometimes that thing I kept meaning to do finally resurfaces again. So instead of flitting over to it, I just jot down the idea, and go right back to the book. I have to do this process a few times until my mind settles enough to focus on reading. Calming the monkey mind, shutting down the flit.
My next offering is something I learned from one of my clients: Agree to do a task for just 60 minutes. Set a timer if you need to.
I have put this 60 minute thing into practice with my writing. In addition to writing this blog, I am working on writing a book. The book has gotten to an overwhelming place, where it is harder to manage the big picture of it. I am finding it more challenging to fully and clearly see the vision of it, and at the same time, more ideas keep coming up. This feels complicated to me. So what I started to do is say,“Ok, Liz, all you need to do is work on the book for an hour. After an hour you can stop.” This has been awesome! Just an hour is enough to get me working on it, and then if it feels really hard, I can stop at an hour, if I am chugging along, I can keep going.
One of my clients decided to also build in breaks to her one hour time blocks. She will work on something for 50 minutes, and then have a 10 minute break where she can decide if she wants to keep working for another 30 minutes or move on to something else. Now that’s just brilliant. I have always been an advocate of planned down time, planned breaks, and planned fooling-around on Facebook time. There is something about giving yourself permission for play-time that relieves you of all the self-judgment and pressure of “should’s.” So then you can proudly say to yourself, “Well, what I “should” be doing right now, is in fact, playing on Facebook, because thats how I scheduled it!”
As I allow this blog post to flow, I am realizing that I have used the word “overwhelming” a few times now. Perhaps “overwhelming” is the reason we flit, multitask, or otherwise procrastinate… and if that is the root cause, well then, breaking things down into small chunks seems like the perfect prescription!
A final note of clarity on uni-tasking: Uni-tasking means doing one thing and one thing only until completion. Sit down, Liz, write your blog, until your blog is written, or you have decided it’s time to stop. Write only your blog, think only about your blog, do nothing else but your blog, until your designated end time. That’s uni-tasking.. and guess what? That is also doing something mindfully. Put your full attention on the thing you are doing. You can do anything in a uni-tasking way. You can eat that way: sit down, with your food, eat your food, focus on your food, chew your food, do nothing but eat your food. You can uni-task work, uni-task play, uni-task exercise… really anything you are doing, you can uni-task! Imagine how that may feel? Simple, streamlined, and overwhelm-free! We just can’t seem to get away from that darn mindfulness as a way to make life better, can we!?
So here is my quick go-to guide for being more efficient, for better time management, and for better enjoyment in your days:
- Acknowledge that you are likely overwhelmed (or some similar feeling, like exhaustion).
- Shut off the TV, extra electronics, additional phone apps, and computer programs other then the one you need.
- If you would like music, pick music without words especially if your task takes logical brain power.
- Sit down to mindfully uni-task your project for 50-60 minutes.
- If other things pop into your head while you are uni-tasking, jot them down and return to your original project.
- Give yourself a break to play, where the thing you “should” do at that time, is play.
- Rinse and repeat daily, weekly, or until your project is completed
Do you have other ideas for better time management? I love learning from you, so please share if you have more ideas of what could help our overwhelming multitasking issues!